Jean-Pierre Melville Blu-ray collection

Jean-Pierre Melville Blu-ray collection
Rating: 5/5
Reviewed by Dave Lancaster
Summary: An absolute essential - StudioCanal's Blu-ray set brings together Jean-Pierre Melville's finest films and they've never looked better.

Updating their brilliant DVD collection to high definition glory on Blu-ray, StudioCanal have brought one of France's most influential filmmakers back into glorious focus.
This set contains six of his finest films, from his early bittersweet masterpiece, Bob Le Flambeur, to his final film, Un flic, his wonderfully fatalistic study of loss and deception; a fitting epitaph to one of the finest careers in contemporary cinema.
Jean-Pierre Melville rode on the coattails of his nation's coolly vibrant New Wave but injected it with the kind of gritty noir overtones that America was making their own in the 1940s and 50s. The result? Colourful darkness. It's these stylistic contradictions that make Melville's work so arresting.
This is a director that could infuse grim humour in the bleakest of conditions or deconstruct a pulsing action scene without relying on a musical score. His heroes use dirty tactics, his invincible men have cracks. Take for example the key characters in Le Circle Rouge which is included in this set: the escaped murderer is lowest of the low, socially speaking, while the aristocratic thief hovers somewhere in the middle and the cop, who is supposed to be a strong pillar of society, is the weakest and most troubled of the bunch.
Many of his gritty crime films are limited on glamour, and Army of Shadows (also included and an absolute essential) has the least of all. It's his bleakest masterwork - a tale of resistance fighters in the Second World War whose glory is punctured by their grim surroundings of murder, betrayal, misguided ideals and harsh fate.
This is glory in the sense that is akin to a bullet-ridden long distance runner crossing the finish line; applause isn't what he's after. Melville certainly wasn't the first filmmaker to attempt a narrative like this, but perhaps he makes the greater statement because of his trademark icy detachment.
An unforgettable scene sees a traitor waiting to be executed while his captors struggle to find a weapon right in front of him. The tension reaches fever pitch as the silent traitor overhears his own plans for his end: a pistol? Too loud. A knife? Perhaps. Strangulation? It gets more and more personal. Again, there's no glamour. Casablanca this ain't.
This is a director that can take honour and obliterate them emotionally to see if they still float to the rhythm of their moral values or if they sink under the weight of faceless oppression. Melville redefined the gangster genre and also what the New Wave stood for. He taught us that waves rise but they also fall with almighty power.
If you're yet to see a Melville, your cinematic jigsaw has been missing a key part. StudioCanal's essential collection fixes that.
NEW Interview with first assistant director Volker Schlondorff - 20 minutes
NEW retrospective documentary by the film critic Dominique Maillet - 20 minutes
NEW Master class with Philippe Labro (friend and apprentice of Melville) + Rémy Grumbach (Melville's nephew) - 59 minutes
DVD Extras
Interview with Le Cercle Rouge's first assistant director Bernard Stora - 30 minutes
BD Extras
Code Name Melville - 76 minutes
Interview with first assistant
director Bernard Stora - 30 minutes
Interview with novelist José Giovanni - 15 minutes
Présentation by Ginette Vincendeau 21'30
Army of Shadows
L'armée des ombres... le dessous des cartes" (Army of Shadows: the hidden side of the story) documentary - 87 minutes
Un Flic
Documentary featuring interviews with Un Flic's script supervisor Florence Moncorgé-Gabin and first assistant director Jean-François Delon -24 minutes
In the mood for Melville documentary - 52 minutes
24 Heures de la vie d'un clown - Melville short - 22 minutes

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