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on 6 September 2004
If you like special effects, big explosions, & Will Smith films, you'll find this agonizingly slow and boring.
Personally, I think it's one of the finest genre films ever made.
"Le Cercle Rouge" is an underworld epic. Bigger in scale, more complex in plotting and nuance than Melville's previous masterpiece "Le Samurai"; at times it seems like a bleak, minimalist precursor of Michael Mann's "Heat" - without that film's pretentious L.A. psychobabble.
Needless to say, Quentin Tarantino is a big fan of "Le Cercle Rouge". You can't really compare his gasbag protagonists to the taciturn über-cool of Alain Delon, but like Tarantino, Melville was something of a cinema anorak. "Le Cercle Rouge" self-consciously borrows the trenchcoats and stock situations of 1940s film noir ("released convict double-crossed by former colleagues", "alcholic sharpshooter redeemed by one-last-job"). But there's no gleeful violence, femme fatales, or hard-boiled wisecracks here.
Instead Melville's mastery of classical Hollywood film-making mirrors itself in a complex professional duel between the underworld and police. The crooks have an intricate technical grasp of their shady profession, but don't fully appreciate the human weaknesses of their criminal intermediaries until they enter "the red circle" and Inspector Mattei's rat-trap is sprung.
The brilliance of "Le Cercle Rouge" really becomes obvious in its set-pieces: Vogel's escape from custody and, above all, the jewellery heist.
Vogel's escape at the start of the film reminds me of the audaciously drawn-out opening of Leone's "Once Upon A Time In The West".
The heist is a masterpiece of Hitchcockian suspense. No blazing guns - these pros are far too cool for that! - just 25 minutes of nail-biting silence as the three robbers carefully unpick the defences of a high-class jewellery boutique. Some of their tricks nowadays look a bit dated - why did "impenetrable" high security vaults always use those electric-eye alarms that anyone can lambada underneath? - but I'll bet in 1970 "Le Cercle Rouge" gave away plenty of trade secrets.
The gripping futility of "Le Cercle Rouge" is heightened by Eric Demarsan's downbeat jazz score and Henri Decae's muted photography of wintry French landscapes (Melville called this a "black & white color film").
Melville's love of American culture inevitably marked his card with the left-wing chieftans of arthouse cinema, which perhaps explains why this re-release has been so long overdue. Now can someone please re-release "Le Deuxième souffle" and "L'Armée des ombres"?...
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on 11 March 2004
films do not come cooler than meaning lean,spare,exciting,unexpected, not samuel l. jackson,not tarantino.le cercle rouge is a sublime experience,the overhead shot of the billiard table,the close up of gian maria volonte's turn of the head during the police chase,yves montand's cold turkey scene with the imagined spiders,lizards and rats,the incredible,unparalleled heist sequence culminating in the unforgettable moment when yves montand snatches the rifle from its mount and hits the target bullseye,the superb jazz score,the magnificent autumnal photography.films do not get any cooler.
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on 28 June 2012
The film begins with a Buddhist epigraph: Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha, drew a circle with a piece of red chalk and said: "When men, even unknowingly, are to meet one day, whatever may befall each, whatever their diverging paths, on the said day, they will inevitably come together in the red circle." Not surprisingly, this epigraph does not exist.

>>>Some of the best French films are screen adaptations of American crime fiction and noir movies, what the French call films policiers. I'm thinking of René Clément's "Plein Soleil" (from Patricia Highsmith's "The Talented Mr Ripley"), Truffault's "Shoot the Piano Player" based on the David Goodis novel "Down There"), Dominique Molle's "With a Friend like Harry," a clever take-off of Hitchcock's "Strangers on a Train," and any number of Jean-Pierre Melville's film noir thrillers. The Criterion release of Melville's "Le Cercle rouge" affords us the chance to see the best French film noir since Jules Dassin's 1955 "Rififi chez les hommes," and to realize that though there are affinities with American film noir, the French films are a different breed, due not only to their settings and the era they were made (most ten or so years after the heyday of American noir) but also because of a certain reticence, a reluctance on the part of the protagonist to think about himself, to put himself before the job at hand.<<<end of quotation by Tony McRae.

Le Cercle rouge is a 1970 crime film set in Paris. It was directed by Jean-Pierre Melville. Cast: Alain Delon - Corey, Bourvil - Le Commissaire Mattei, Gian Maria Volonté - Vogel, Yves Montand - Jansen, Paul Crauchet - Le Receleur, Paul Amiot - Le chef de la police, François Périer - Santi. It is perhaps best known for its final heist sequence which is about half an hour in length. Understatement is the method of the film, from Melville's pared-down screenplay to the performances by the three trench-coated principals, even to the muted photography by Henri Decae, which is in color but has the chilly effect of black and white.

97 - Le cercle rouge by Jean-Pierre Melville (1970, 140') - 28/9/2012
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on 5 March 2012
One of Jean-Pierre Melville's classic American influenced atmospheric French gangster films, this features Alain Delon with veteran stars Andre Bourvil and Yves Montand. Culminating in a beautifully staged diamond heist, Delon, as a criminal recently released from jail, delivers a fine performance in the almost emotionless and minimally expressive manner which epitomises his three Melville films. However, Delon is such a gifted actor that a flicker of the eyes or an almost imperceptible facial movement can convey huge meaning.

As with most Studio Canal releases, the print quality and sound are of a very high standard. This is the only distributor to have released even a minimally representative selection of Alain Delon's films in subtitled versions in the UK and Le Cercle Rouge can be bought individually or as part of a Jean-Pierre Melville boxset. Well worth buying either or both.

It is to be hoped that Studio Canal will continue to release more Delon films. Many titles are available direct from France, of course, but without English subtitles.

Some Delon films are as yet unavailable anywhere on DVD which is difficult to understand given his longstanding international popularity. Let's hope Studio Canal releases these and other titles in the UK.

Le Cercle Rouge ranks among Melville's best work, this copy is excellent, it deserves five stars.
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on 19 February 2004
I saw this as it was intended - in a movie theatre and decided it was one of those must have films.
Don t be expecting a cops and robbers action packed adventure full of explosions and car chases.
The pleasures of this movie are altogether more subtle and are elicited from the performances of the leads, Delon in particular, and the mind games going on with the cop who is out to nail him.
Despite the slow pace, this film is utterly mesmerising. Be patient with it, and your patience will be gradually rewarded.
To my mind this out cools even films like Bullit, The Getaway or Friends of Eddie Coyle.
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As you've probably gathered most of the reviews are for the 'DVD' version of the 1970 French thriller “Le Cercle Rouge”. And the BLU RAY is available in the States and Europe. But which issue to buy?

Unfortunately the desirable USA Criterion release is REGION-A LOCKED - although it doesn't say so on Amazon.
So it WILL NOT PLAY on most UK BLU RAY players unless they're chipped to play 'all' regions (which the vast majority aren't).
Don’t confuse BLU RAY players that have multi-region capability on the 'DVD' front – that won’t help.

Luckily the “Studio Canal” REGION B release uses the same restored elements and will play on UK machines.

Check you’re purchasing the right version before you buy the pricey Criterion release...
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 21 December 2015
This is from French director Jean-Pierre Melville (‘Le Samourai’ and ‘The Army of Shadows’) and he is rightly seen as a major contributor to France’s film history. This is about a major thief called Corey – Alain Delon – who has just done five years and ,on his imminent release, his prison guard tells him of another heist.

On his way to freedom and a new life of crime he runs into Vogel who has just escaped from police custody. They team together and seek out the services of a talented sharp shooter – who is also a cop and also an alcoholic. They are being pursued by the cat loving Commissaire of Police Mattei who decides to play it only slightly by the book in order to capture his quarry.

Now this was made in 1970 and Melville was not really part of the ‘New Wave’ of French cinema so never got the adulation of some of his contemporaries. However, he always played with a straight bat as it were – here using a linear narrative to deliver a gritty and realistic film. He also manages to get great performances from all his players and it has a feel of style and quality. It is also a great time capsule with some scenes of contemporary life and tastes that have widely been lost – some great cars too.

My only criticism is the length of this – at 140 minutes it takes its time with some scenes that have way too much detail. That can be balanced by the fact that he is showing us details of the crimes etc and probably at the time to a largely uninitiated audience – to whom this would have been novel. Modern tastes are much less inclined to dally over such detail and would prefer to get to the point. That said this is still an entreating and accomplished piece of classic French cinema.
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on 15 April 2016
The masters of Cinema : ALAiN DELON , ANDRE BOURVIL , YVES MONTAND , GiAN - MARiA VOLONTE and FRANCOiS PERiER together with the director JEAN-PiERRE MELViLLE created this SUPERFILM "THE RED CiRCLE" - Timelles and outstanding performances ! DELON , BOURVIL , MONTAND , VOLONTE and PERiER were born to play these great roles and to create the best Cinema ever . ( Gentille Adrian Buzatu )
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on 30 December 2008
'Le Cercle Rouge' (1972) is one of Jean-Pierre Melville's gangster movies (as opposed to his 'resistance' WW2 movies). The universe of 'The Cercle Rouge' is similar to 'Le Samurai' and 'Le Dolous': filled with (male) characters who are cool, laconic, unsmiling and doesn't say very much, but bent on carrying out their (criminal) plans no matter what. The main protagonists, all with a shadowy past, are played by Gian Maria Volontè, Alain Deon and Yves Montand - chased by commissar Mattei (André Bourvil). There are no significant women in this man's world, the only one's seen are dancing in the background or sweeping by.

Melville's films have a certain 'slow' tempo: when it's getting suspenseful the tempo is slowed down so that all movements are followed, instead of speeding up with short cuts which can be said to be more conventional. This is explained in the excellent commentary track with Ginette Vincendeau, extra material which makes this DVD well worth buying.

Some people react negatively to the contemplative tempo, and the fact that there is not much dialogue or real action/violence. Personally I think it is a welcome contrast to other movies. Also, everything is not as clear or explained as is the norm: for example we never learn why Corey is in jail as the movie begins, or why Vogel is hunted by a veritable army of cops. Instead the viewer has to interpret a little bit more why the characters do what they do and so on. The mood (and colors) in the film are muted and may not be to everyone's taste either. That said, this is a movie I have watched two times and will watch again.

The excellent commentary by Vincendeau together with the nice transfer make me want to recommend this Bfi DVD to anyone interested in cinema.
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Wow! All those silences make this a lengthy 2hrs 20, but it’s well worth it. The unremarkable escaped prisoner on heist plot, is taken to another level thanks to that willingness to experiment with the art of film. It seems that Hollywood has stolen something from every scene since.
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