Studiocanal are releasing a set of six key films of celebrated director Jean-Pierre Melville in his centenary year, part I is, Bob The Gambler.
Roger Duchesne (The Story Of A Cheat, Conflit) plays Robert ‘Bob’ Montagne, a man who is well known in this French little town as a gambler and former crook.
So well known is he, that one of his friends is the current commissaire, Guy Decomble (The 400 Blows, Les Cousins), but everyone knows Bob and everyone knows he likes to gamble.
Whilst on a particular loosing streak, Bob hears about a large, 800 million Franc bounty sat in a safe at a local casino. This is too good to pass-up for a former bank robber and he begins assembling a team to take the loot.
One of the people Bob recruits is Paulo, Daniel Cauchy (Actors, The Mad Heart), a young man who looks up to Bob. Paulo has a weakness though, and that weakness is women.
When the beautiful Anne, Isabelle Corey (Love At First Sight, Giovani Mariti), arrives on the scene, Bob feels sorry for her and takes her in. But Paulo falls in love with her.
Anne however, isn’t interested, in fact, she’s not interested in much. She flits from man-to-man and job-to-job and so, when Paulo tells her about the casino job, she thinks he’s bluffing and thinks nothing of telling a fellow crook about it, he, in turn, snitches to the police.
Bob has the heist all planned out, from timings to getting there, where to go afterwards, where people should stand, the lot. But he hasn’t anticipated this.
As Bob’s commissaire friend attempts to warn him off the job, Paulo tries to make things right which gives the gang an opening. They go for it. But Bob, whose job it is to arrive early at the casino and ensure everything is going to plan, is distracted when he begins winning at the tables. As the saying goes, a leopard never changes its spots.
As an introduction to the world and work of Jean-Pierre Melville, Bob Le Flambeur is right up there amongst his best. This is what Melville does best, the gangster/heist picture.
Melville takes the typical American-style gangster flicks of the time, of which there where a lot, and injects them with a whole lot of humanity and love, all whilst slowing the pace.
Melville is a details director, we follow characters for minutes sometimes, as they walk through the city streets to their destinations, whilst other times he employs his trademark wipes to flick us through time.
Duchesne is fabulous as Bob, a friendly, likeable bad-guy with a humorous streak but, most of all, a man who enjoys helping others, who, despite his own lack of wealth, is only to happy to lend you when you are in need.
Of course, Bob’s biggest weakness is his gambling and he falls prey to this mistress time and time again. Melville doesn’t dwell on the pitfalls of gambling necessarily, focussing on plans that go awry, trust, and how things can come unravelled when that trust isn’t there.
Bob The Gambler is a magnificent film from a filmmaker doing what he loved and at his best. The restoration allows for crystal clear viewing and you have a retrospective documentary included by Dominique Maillet.
Melville, The Essential Collection boxset is released on December 11th 2017 and features brand-new 4k restorations and new extras. The films included are: Le Doulos, Bob Le Flambeur, Leon Morin, Priest, L’Armee Des Ombres, The Cercle Rouge and Un Flic.