Monday, November 7, 2011

Bob le Flambeur

C'est la Semaine de la Nouvelle Vague française! Toute la semaine, nous allons voir des films de cette période révolutionnaire et les plus influents dans l'histoire de certains de ses plus grands réalisateurs.

seen online via YouTube

I've never understood the compulsion to gamble with money. (Yes, I know we all take gambles of some sort in our everyday lives, be it on a lover, a career, or what have you. I'm not talking about that.) I always thought that when you've grown up without much of it, it makes you wanna hold onto it that much harder, certainly not recklessly throw it away on games of chance. Sure, it's tempting to do something as ordinary and common as play a lottery ticket - I've certainly thought about doing it more than once - but it's so easy for something that starts so innocently to become an addiction. I'm reminded of that funny Albert Brooks movie Lost in America, where one afternoon at the roulette wheel turns Julie Hagerty into a gambling fiend.

Competitiveness, I understand, of course. The drive to want to beat the other guy in a challenge of some sort - sure, that makes sense. To not know when to quit, however, especially when one could put that money towards much more useful things (like a nest-egg), well, that's something that oughta put the fear of God into people, but it doesn't. Not always, anyway. That's why it always amazes me whenever I see professional gamblers playing poker or whatever and  handling thousands of dollars of money at a time. One would have to be fearless to risk so much money on a game.

The title character of Bob le Flambeur is cool at the gambling table to the point of icy. Dude's a small-time hood who has spent the past twenty years on the straight and narrow, until he gets drawn into a supposedly can't-miss heist of a local casino. This film takes a while to really get going, but once it does, it's not bad, although Bob didn't strike me as interesting a character as, say, Paul Newman in The Hustler, or Edward Norton in Rounders

Bob was directed by Jean-Pierre Melville, and it was considered highly influential on subsequent French New Wave filmmakers like Francois Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard (both of whom we'll get to later in the week). Melville was notable for shooting on location, which was a rarity in French cinema at the time (mid-50s). Indeed, there are very nice street scenes of the Paris neighborhood Montmartre throughout the film. Plus, he had his own homemade studio in which parts of Bob were shot. The FNW was as much about economy of filmmaking as anything else. The auteur theory of filmmaking, which elevates the director over and above everyone else as the creator whose unique style binds the film together, was taking shape around this time, and Melville, by virtue of his working outside of the studio system, fit nicely into this new paradigm. We'll go into more detail about auteurism later this week as well.

Unfortunately, I'm struggling with a cold as I write this, and as a result it's a little hard to think about details from a movie I saw two days ago, so that's all I have to say about Bob. This is gonna make watching these films difficult, since I have to pay attention to the subtitles if I wanna know what's going on. I'll just have to muddle through somehow.


  1. For what it's worth, I'm pretty devoted to French cinema and the one thing that sticks out with me most about Flambeur is that it was a forerunner for the rest of the movement. Meaning, I suppose- not a lot of it stuck with me, either.

  2. Oh. Well, I still thought it was pretty good.


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