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Poster for Le doulos (The Informer)
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Le doulos (The Informer)

Opens on July 5

Director: Jean-Pierre Melville Run Time: 108 min. Format: DCP Release Year: 1962 Language: French with English subtitles

Starring: Jean Desailly, Jean-Paul Belmondo, Serge Reggiani

No one can be trusted in the guarded, duplicitous milieu of Le doulos, Melville’s first decisive plunge into the policier genre. Most devious of all, at least from what we can tell, is Silien, Jean-Paul Belmondo’s sphinx-like gangster, who can swerve from businesslike practicality to homicidal detachment to suave seductiveness on a dime. In Melville’s ghostly, fogged-over Paris, all criminals seem only a couple degrees removed, so Silien is loosely associated with recently released thief Faugel (Serge Reggiani). Once Faugel becomes involved in another scheme, Silien inserts himself into the roundelay of shady characters tied to an investigation. Is he working to meticulously frame Faugel, or merely aiding in a cover-up? Melville’s key addition to the genre is his use of duration and silence, his willingness to draw out the lengthy pauses leading up to an all-but-certain kill, or to track for an unwieldy length of time the feet of an unidentified gangster toward the location of some stolen money. The sum of all this excessive deliberation is the capturing of an existential condition wherein death is an ever-looming threat and dishonesty a survival mechanism.

Text by Carson Lund.


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