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Le Cercle Rouge Criterion 4K UHD Review

“Le Cercle Rouge”is among Jean-Pierre Melville’s finest.

Written and directed by one of France’s most renowned filmmakers (Jean-Pierre Melville), “Le Cercle Rouge” (AKA “The Red Circle”) is a neo-noir/crime-thriller/heist film. The story revolves around the fresh out of prison Corey who is tipped off by a Prison Warden about a jewelry heist job. Corey crosses paths with another criminal (Vogel) who escaped Police custody and is on the run from authorities. Vogel falls in with Corey and plots to rob the jewelry store alongside a marksman/former cop (Jansen) who is struggling with alcoholism. Will the 3 be able to pull the caper off ? Will the heist blow up in their face? Will Inspector Mattei thwart Vogel or indeed everyone involved? All is revealed in the end.

1970’s “Le Cercle Rouge” is a deliberately paced and tension filled “cops and robbers” film that has a sense of realism to it. The organic visual style from Henri Decae’s cinematography mixed with Melville’s grounded approach to storytelling really sets ‘Rouge’ apart from other films of similar ilk. This is not a film that is flashy or fast paced. Instead, Melville meticulously sets up characters and plotlines over the course of the 140 minute runtime. Seeing how characters come together or how events will unfold is what draws the viewer in. When Melville does get to the action like the engrossing silent heist sequence or the heart racing finale, the payoff is worth the wait.

Underneath the surface of the main story, Melville’s exploration of humanity is an ongoing thread throughout this feature. The notion that every man is born innocent but becomes guilty is something that is touched on and indeed features heavily into the cast of characters. Bleak and pessimistic as it may be, it’s intriguing to see Melville delve into the darkness of mankind.

Performance wise, everyone here is on their A game. Alain Delon (Corey), Andre Bourvil (Mattei), Gian Maria Volonte (Vogel) all deliver memorable performances, but Yves Montand impresses the most as Jansen. That could be due to the fact that Jansen might be the most dynamic character though.


Presentation: 1.85:1 2160p With Dolby Vision HDR. How does it look? The 4K restoration maintains the grit of the 70’s style while also providing a gorgeous new transfer.  Some folks have been critical of the color grading so it might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but to me, it impressed.

Audio Track: French Uncompressed Mono. How does it sound? I can find no fault in this clean sounding Mono track.


* Blu-ray copy
* A booklet with credits, an essay by film critic Michael Sragow, an excerpt from “Melville On Melville,” an interview with composer Eric Demarsan, an essay by author Chris Fujiwara, and a piece by John Woo
* “Le Cercle Rouge” trailer.
* Archival footage from 5 French TV series titled “Cineastes De Notre Temps,” “Pour Le Cinema,” “Midi Magazine,” “Vingt-Quatre Heures Sur La Deux” and “Morceaux De Bravoure.” Among the topics of discussion in this series are “Le Cercle Rouge” and or Melville.
* A 2003 interview with “Le Cercle Rouge” assistant director Bernard Stora.
* A 2003 interview with “Melville On Melville” author Rui Nogueira and Robert Fischer from 2003.


March 25, 2022 - Posted by | 4K UHD Review | , , , , ,

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