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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Revolutionary crime-noir, from the director of Le Samourai., 9 Jan 2008
This review is from: Bob Le Flambeur [DVD] (DVD)
Bob Le Flambeur opens with a glimmering shot of early morning Paris, where we find the rugged, nonchalant hood Bob Montagne, sauntering through the neon lit streets, looking every bit the icon of cinema that he is. To Bob, everything in life is a gamble, an uncertainty, a ten-to-one shot. He inhabits a world of games and chances... as the gravel voice narration points out, "the city can be both heaven and hell, as long as you know how to play it". He is, as the title suggests, a man who lives and loves gambling. A one-time crook now taking it easy, we find him huddled in a smoky apartment - the walls painted black and white like a chessboard - hard at work towards yet another pay off. When he isn't 'working', Bob lives the simple life, hanging out in bars with old pals or relaxing in his penthouse apartment. His only real companion is Paolo, a young tearaway who idolises and emulates Bob's look and lifestyle. The child of a former friend, Bob becomes the surrogate father figure to Paolo, looking out for him and making sure he isn't consumed by the lure of the mean streets.

Bob le Flambeur was one of Melville's earliest entries into the gangster cycle that would later give birth to his better-known film, Le Samourai. Like that film, Flambeur is a technically assured and understated journey into the underworld, employing a raw cinematic intensity, knowing irony and loose plot, which can probably be seen as an influence on contemporary filmmakers like Martin Scorsese, Ringo Lam, Paul Thomas Anderson, John Woo, Quentin Tarantino, David Mamet and Wong Kar-Wai. It can also be seen as something of a revolutionary work, with Melville's bold use of real locations, available light and handheld cameras offering an obvious precursor to the style of the later nouvelle vague, and, to great filmmakers like Godard, Chabrol and Truffaut. Like those directors, Melville has a strong understanding of genre conventions and the post-war Gangster ethos, and thus, crafts a film that is both European in style and sensibility, but at the same time, nods to the classic gangster movies of 30's and 40's Hollywood... giving us a cool and slick film, that still has enough edge and grit to make the characters seem like real people.

The plot unfolds at a natural pace, slowly at first, but gradually building momentum once all the major players have been introduced, with Melville creating something of a confrontational three-way struggle between Bob, Paolo and Isabelle Corey's deceptive femme-fetal. As the film progresses, we delve deeper into both the plot and the back story, finding Bob seriously out of pocket after a spot of bad luck at the casino... and, with only one way to go to get the cash back, he decides to pull off the ultimate gamble... by which, allow himself to be pulled back down into the criminal underworld that he'd almost escaped. From this point on the film becomes concerned with the intricacies of crime, the impact of friendship and the fixation and fundamental need to succeed, or else, forfeit the next ten to twenty years of your life... and for the aging Bob, this is not an option. At this point, loyalties are tested and precision filmmaking is pushed to the limits as the plot continues headlong towards its climax. The story takes all manner of twists and turns along the way, with Melville keeping the story rooted in the details of his characters and the intricacy of the crime it's self, so that by the end the film the whole thing has seemingly worked towards chance and blind luck... proving to some extent Melville's grand metaphor that life is the ultimate gamble.

Melville's film is one of the classic post-war noir films, if not one of the most important French films ever made... an evocative depiction of glistening black and white France, replete with shady gangsters, crooked cops, gambling dens, back street cafés and the ultimate heist, made all the more potent by the astounding performance of Roger Duchesne as the laconic and iconic Bob, and with great support from Daniel Cauchy as Paulo, Isabelle Corey as the wide-eyed Anne and Guy Decomble as Inspector Ledru.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Revolutionary crime-noir, from the director of Le Samourai., 24 Jun 2005
Bob Le Flambeur opens with a glimmering shot of early morning Paris, where we find the rugged, nonchalant hood Bob Montagne, sauntering through the neon lit streets, looking every bit the icon of cinema that he is.
To Bob, everything in life is a gamble, an uncertainty, a ten-to-one shot. He inhabits a world of games and chances... as the gravel voice narration points out, "the city can be both heaven and hell, as long as you know how to play it". He is, as the title suggests, a man who lives and loves gambling. A one-time crook now taking it easy, we find him huddled in a smoky apartment - the walls painted black and white like a chessboard - hard at work towards yet another pay off. When he isn't 'working', Bob lives the simple life, hanging out in bars with old pals or relaxing in his penthouse apartment. His only real companion is Paolo, a young tearaway who idolises and emulates Bob's look and lifestyle. The child of a former friend, Bob becomes the surrogate father figure to Paolo, looking out for him and making sure he isn't consumed by the lure of the mean streets.
Bob le Flambeur was one of Melville's earliest entries into the gangster cycle that would later give birth to his better-known film, Le Samourai. Like that film, Flambeur is a technically assured and understated journey into the underworld, employing a raw cinematic intensity, knowing irony and loose plot, which can probably be seen as an influence on contemporary filmmakers like Martin Scorsese, Ringo Lam, Paul Thomas Anderson, John Woo, Quentin Tarantino, David Mamet and Wong Kar-Wai. It can also be seen as something of a revolutionary work, with Melville's bold use of real locations, available light and handheld cameras offering an obvious precursor to the style of the later nouvelle vague, and, to great filmmakers like Godard, Chabrol and Truffaut. Like those directors, Melville has a strong understanding of genre conventions and the post-war Gangster ethos, and thus, crafts a film that is both European in style and sensibility, but at the same time, nods to the classic gangster movies of 30's and 40's Hollywood... giving us a cool and slick film, that still has enough edge and grit to make the characters seem like real people.
The plot unfolds at a natural pace, slowly at first, but gradually building momentum once all the major players have been introduced, with Melville creating something of a confrontational three-way struggle between Bob, Paolo and Isabelle Corey's deceptive femme-fetal. As the film progresses, we delve deeper into both the plot and the back story, finding Bob seriously out of pocket after a spot of bad luck at the casino... and, with only one way to go to get the cash back, he decides to pull off the ultimate gamble... by which, allow himself to be pulled back down into the criminal underworld that he'd almost escaped.
From this point on the film becomes concerned with the intricacies of crime, the impact of friendship and the fixation and fundamental need to succeed, or else, forfeit the next ten to twenty years of your life... and for the aging Bob, this is not an option. At this point, loyalties are tested and precision filmmaking is pushed to the limits as the plot continues headlong towards its climax. The story takes all manner of twists and turns along the way, with Melville keeping the story rooted in the details of his characters and the intricacy of the crime it's self, so that by the end the film the whole thing has seemingly worked towards chance and blind luck... proving to some extent Melville's grand metaphor that life is the ultimate gamble.
Melville's film is one of the classic post-war noir films, if not one of the most important French films ever made... an evocative depiction of glistening black and white France, replete with shady gangsters, crooked cops, gambling dens, back street cafés and the ultimate heist, made all the more potent by the astounding performance of Roger Duchesne as the laconic and iconic Bob, and with great support from Daniel Cauchy as Paulo, Isabelle Corey as the wide-eyed Anne and Guy Decomble as Inspector Ledru.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars France's best American Film Noir, 21 July 2007
By 
J. A. Eyon "Little Raven" (Seattle - USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Bob Le Flambeur [DVD] (DVD)
Engaging study of an aging Montmarte gambler whose luck is running out so he decides to attempt a heist of the casino in Deauville.

This is a displaced American film noir movie with a leading man (Roger Dechesne) who wears, Bogart-like, a wide-brim hat and a trenchcoat. He's a gambler with a surprisingly high ethical sense. That is until things get desperate and he falls back on his failed career of 20 years before - robbery - this time of a casino.

Usually I find the heist in Melville films the most interesting, but this time I preferred the early, mood-setting scenes of this movie in which the gambler (a reformed bank robber) meanders between the backroom gambling dens of Montmartre.

As usual, Melville's direction was top notch with a lot of location shots. As usual, the pacing is deliberate. The actors were unknown to me - but I wish Isabelle Corey weren't. She puts most European sex kittens of the time in the shade.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A heist movie that's all about style and the gangster code, just like Bob, and with a great twist of elegant irony, 11 July 2007
By 
C. O. DeRiemer (San Antonio, Texas, USA) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Bob Le Flambeur [DVD] (DVD)
Flamber is a French verb which means to wager not just the money you have but the money you don't have. Bob Montagne (Roger Duchesne) has earned his nickname. He's a compulsive gambler, unable to pass a card table or a game of chemin de fer without pausing, then sitting in. He's such a poor gambler, or an unlucky one, that he consistently loses. Bob also is a man with a code of honor and a style. He's middle aged with white hair and a smooth face. He's at heart a gangster and has served time in prison. He's been straight for 20 years, always dresses well and keeps an apartment with a view of the Seine and Sacre-Coeur. He drives a polished, two-tone Cadillac convertible. He once saved the life of Inspector Ledru (Guy Decomble), with whom he is friendly, and keeps under his wing the callow son, Paulo (Daniel Cauchy), of an old mob friend. He intervenes when a young girl, Anne (Isabelle Corey), is about to fall into the clutches of a pimp and takes her to his apartment so she'll have a place to stay...not to sleep with, however. That would be against his code. And when Bob loses his last 700 francs, he learns that the casino at Deauville will have as much as 800 million francs in its safe. The temptation is too much. He and a good friend decide to rob the place. They bring in Paulo, they find a casino croupier to provide inside information, they recruit experienced gangsters, they find a backer. Bob and his gang plan the heist down to the last detail, starting with the chalked outline of the casino in an open field, to careful practice on a duplicate safe, to a clever, short fantasy introduced by a narrator who tells us, "Here's how Bob pictured the heist," that should have you smiling.

But there is also pillow talk to impress a lover, jealousy for better things than a bracelet, a betrayal or two, a murder of retribution and a police inspector who may want to warn Bob off but who is not going to sit by and allow the robbery to take place.

"I'll be upstairs pretending to play the tables to make sure everything's okay," Bob tells his gang. "If not, I'll give you a signal and we'll delay the job. Otherwise, if you don't see me by 5 a.m. sharp, that means we're on." At 1 a.m., Bob is at the casino...and he stops to watch the roulette table. Before long he's sitting in, then moving to play chemin de fer, then moving on to play in one of the casino's private rooms. Occasionally he remembers to check his watch. And for once in his life, Bob le Flambeur is winning bigger than he could ever have imagined. The movie moves to a conclusion which includes a twist of elegant irony, a bit of violence, and a hope that Bob will be able to afford a very good lawyer.

Bob le Flambeur may be a simple story about a gambler, but it's also a fascinating tale of style and grubby ambience. Melville filmed the movie over two years, a few days at a time whenever he could come up with the money. He used a hand-held camera out on the streets of Paris. He shows us the grimy, wet streets of Montmartre and the Pigalle neighborhood, with late-night bars and after-hours gambling dens, neon signs, jazz clubs, wet streets, gangster patrons and tough bartenders, hostesses and their marks, milky pastis and lots of cigarette smoke. Melville spends the first 40 minutes of the movie setting us up with Bob, his style and his milieu. It just carries us along.

Melville, it is said, had a great influence on the French New Wave directors. He's spoken of with admiration by such current directors as Scorsese, Woo and Spielberg. When he at last was able to attract name actors, he wrote and directed movies such as Le Samourai and Le Circle Rouge. And while Jean Cocteau invariably gets the credit for Les Enfants Terribles, it was Melville who co-wrote the script and directed.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Loaded with French style and 'Je ne sais quoi', 16 Nov 2010
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This review is from: Bob Le Flambeur [DVD] (DVD)
Nothing happens quickly in this classy French classic.
Monsieur Bob is a legend and admired by all who know him, including the local bobbies. Monsieur Bob is calm, collected, suave, sophisticated and a man with a past. The narrator is also a star of this flick as he constantly drolls 'Bob Le Flambeur' in a rich, matter-of-fact, French accent. Indeed the narrator has as much to say as the cast: this is a minimalist movie. Bob adopts a beautiful young belle in the perfect shape of Isabelle Corey but he resists any romantic involvement. Bob just needs to know he can have her, he doesn't 'need' to have her. One senses Monsieur Bob has done it all and only gambling gives him the risk and the thrill that can satisfy him. But Bob, like all gamblers, loses, and loses big time and so he is forced into the biggest risk and gamble of his life.
The scene where his gang plan the heist was clearly the inspiration for 'HEAT' and 'OCEAN'S ELEVEN' and many other movies. Monsieur Bob might even be seen as the inspiration for the on-screen James Bond.
Everything is understated, stylish and classy. Less is more in this wonderful movie.
JP :)
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Plenty of Style and Substance., 6 July 2010
By 
Bob Salter "Captain Spindrift" (Wiltshire, England) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Bob Le Flambeur [DVD] (DVD)
My first Jean-Pierre Melville film, and it did not disappoint. Crime capers are not generally my cup of tea, but this one managed to engage my short attention span until the very end. Melville himself described the film as a "Love letter to Paris", although it is best described as a stylised rather than romanticised vignette of the city. Roger Duchesne plays Bob the gambler whose luck seems to be running out. Short on funds he sets out to plan the ultimate heist. This takes him through the seedy streets of the Sacre Coeur, Montmatre and Pigalle. But the ambitious and risky plan needs many accomplices. Planning the perfect crime is difficult when only one loose tongue can lead to disaster.

Melville impressively manages to flesh out Bob's character in the relatively short running time. He is a man who has his own clearly defined code of honour. It is soon apparent that he has been generous with money loans to associates in the underworld, but when asked for money by a pimp he gives an emphatic no. It is clear he has certain standards to maintain! He also tries to help a beautiful young girl of dubious moral standards, with none of the usual strings attached that she has been accustomed to. He is also steadfastly loyal to his friends who include a Police Inspector. But codes or not Bob is still a criminal down deep when opportunity knocks, but one who will avoid bloodshed at all costs. Bob's distinctive trench coat and de rigueur cigarette are of course reminders of the classic 1940s noir thrillers.

The film bears strong similarities in plot to the "Oceans 11" films. But whereas these Hollywood productions were glossy romanticised examples of hollowness, this film conquers these better known big budget productions through style and substance. It should also be mentioned that Isabelle Corey is few divisions above the rather icy Julia Roberts in the seductive sex kitten league. She is definitely a galactico in the premier division. This has been a very pleasant introduction to Melville's work and it has encouraged me to watch more. Who knows, with more films like this I may be converted to a true blue Francophile yet!
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4.0 out of 5 stars The best American Film Noir out of France, 21 July 2007
By 
J. A. Eyon "Little Raven" (Seattle - USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This is a displaced American film noir movie by French auteur Jean-Pierre Melville with a leading man (Roger Duchesne) who wears, Bogart-like, a wide-brim hat and a trenchcoat. He's a gambler with a surprisingly high ethical sense. That is until things get desperate and he falls back on his failed career of 20 years before - robbery - this time of a casino.

Usually I find the heist in Melville films the most interesting, but this time I preferred the early, mood-setting scenes of this movie in which the gambler meanders between the backroom gambling dens of Montmartre.

As usual, Melville's direction was top notch with a lot of location shots. Also typically, the pacing is very deliberate. The actors were unknown to me - but I wish Isabelle Corey weren't. Forget, Bardot or Loren. Corey puts most European sex kittens of the time in the shade.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding!, 23 April 2014
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This review is from: Bob Le Flambeur [DVD] (DVD)
Great French gangster film and the quality of the print looks like it could have been made yesterday. This and Touchez Pas Au Grisby are, for my money, the best there are, BUY IT!
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4.0 out of 5 stars Essential in Setting the Protocols of the International Gangster Flick, 27 Jan 2011
By 
Stephanie De Pue (Wilmington, NC USA) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Bob Le Flambeur [DVD] (DVD)
"Bob Le Flambeur" (Bob the Gambler), (1955), is a black and white classic of the French cinema, a hard-boiled crime thriller, one of the atmospheric gangster pictures that French directors seem to make so well. In an intelligent, witty, and understated drama by the noted Jean-Pierre Melville, (Le Samourai), Bob (Roger Duchesne) is a gangster who's done jail time, and an addicted gambler. He's also an addicted smoker, but then, everyone smokes like chimneys in this flick: let's face it, the French are known for their love of smoking. At any rate, Bob is an empathetic and compassionate man who plays father figure to young street kids Paolo (Daniel Cauchy) and femme fatale Anne (Isabelle Corey). When Bob runs out of money, these three hatch a plan to rob a Deauville casino, despite the warnings of a friendly cop.

The film's a bit slow in getting its wheels going, but is never less than fascinating to look at, as Bob and his friends turn out nattily dressed every time, in suits, white shirts and ties, the de rigueur trench coats and fedoras that define the gangster flick internationally. We watch Bob drive his big, flashy, 1950's tail finned American Chevy convertible through lively Montmartre, long a redoubt of the sailor, the prostitute and the pimp, the working class and the criminals that prey on it. This area of Paris is shown as being shabby, but busy 24 hours a day, with nightclubs, dance halls, bars, stray GIs, petty hoods, casual sex, news stands, late-night gambling. The bare and wintry seaside Deauville, beautifully caught by the director, stands in sharp contrast to his loving Paris cityscape. Its beaches are raw, unimproved, and deserted. In fact, Deauville seems caught in an earlier era: horse-drawn carts still ply its main streets.

In 2003, acclaimed Irish director Neil Jordan remade the picture as The Good Thief [DVD] [2003], starring Nick Nolte as Bob Montagnet, a middle-aged gambler caught up in the well-known gritty underworld of Nice, France, the town which produced Alain Delon, the very handsome French film star of LE SAMOURAI, who was always rumored to have underworld connections. (As, according to a post at IMDb, the star of "Bob," Roger Duchesne, had.) Be that as it may, when Nolte's efforts to free himself from his addictions to drugs and gambling fail, he hatches a plan to rob a Monte Carlo casino. This film is, of course, in color, and it should be noted that the mild climate of the Mediterranean makes this picture a lot prettier to watch than the dreary winter Deauville of the French original. It's certainly worth a look to anyone who enjoys casino/heist pictures.

But the Melville original was essential in setting the protocols of all the many heist/gangster pictures that have followed it.
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Bob Le Flambeur [DVD]
Bob Le Flambeur [DVD] by Jean-Pierre Melville (DVD - 2006)
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