“I believe that you must be madly in love with cinema to create films. You also need a huge cinematic baggage.” – Jean Pierre Melville
If we follow the above quote and see Melville’s few films, we just grasp what he means by ‘cinematic baggage.’ It’s his individualist style where we see some strong personal characters which keep us perplexing, the unique use of camera and atmospheric crime setting which gives us impression of watching classic crime saga.
The film revolves around a bunch of secret French resistance officers playing hide and seek with Nazi Gestapo during Second World War. The characters have their weakness and strength which played turns of events. Lino Ventura as Gerbier is a man to watch here as shrewd, intelligent, unpredictable middle age leading character. Rest of the actors too played their parts quite well with special mention to Simone Signoret who played Mathilde.
This is my second Melville film and personally I like ‘Le Samourai’ better than this as it’s more gripping one and meticulous in its treatment. But watching this film I would like to conclude that camera hardly moves in Melville films, it remains focused on character for long time with occasional zoom in and zoom out and then it slowly moves towards point of view. Throughout the film Melville maintained this personal trait here and I fully corroborate Shuddha’s observation that it resembles with Bresson. It naturally gives us inclination that Melville believes in visuals and actions of his characters rather than conventional dialogue driven drama. It requires patience to watch Melville films for common audience due to his minimalist style & slow camera movements but here lies some fine POV shots that he had gifted to the world of crime films.