Blu-Ray Review: Jean-Pierre Melville’s LE CERCLE ROUGE

Jean-Pierre Melville’s Le Cercle Rouge (The Red Circle) starring icon of French cinema Alain Delon gets a restoration courtesy of Studio Canal’s Vintage World Cinema Collection. The hard-boiled French crime-thriller arrives for the first time on 4k as well as new editions of Blu-Ray, DVD, and digital released November 23rd and available for order here.

Delon is joined by Gian Maria Volonte and Yves Montand in the massively mismatched criminal trio drawn into a game of cat and mouse with Andre Bourvil’s inscrutable police inspector. As the day of their planned jewellery store heist draws closer the four men are entangled in a case that will see them challenge fate.

Melville directs and writes with a staggering precision with plot points moving like pawns across a chess board in an elaborate yet intricately crafted piece that refuses to rush with its pacing. With a continual sense of unease and suspense rippling through the tightly-wound narrative as the unlikely criminal trio made up of a Delon’s suave master thief , the crack-shot alcoholic former police officer (Montand), and dangerous recent escapee Vogel (Volontè) who plot their intricate robbery, Le Cercle Rouge is a quietly engrossing watch. This tight-rope style sense of tension is perfectly encapsulated in the taut silent robbery sequence.

Delon who reached his mid-thirties by the initial release of Le Cercle Rouge still retains his good-looks of Plein Soleil and L’Eclisse, whilst his suave demeanour is also present – yet the charismatic French actor feels slightly more macabre in the role of the controlling, ruthless Corey. Montand makes an intriguing juxtaposition to the suaveness of Delon, as the scrappy, shaking former-cop. A hallucinogenic sequence seeing the police officer surrounded by nightmarish creatures in a fit of drunken panic also gives Melville the change to detour into more trippy, late-sixties territory with the project.

The project almost plays out like an ode to the criminal underworld, celebrating the intricate planning, coordination and ruthless gusto that their work takes. Blending French realism with hard-boiled crime tropes, Le Cercle Rouge is an essential watch – something heightened by the beautiful 4K and Blu-Ray restorations the project has gained, not to mention the plethora of special features which you can see below.

DVD / Blu-Ray Extras

  • NEW THE PERFECT CIRCLE
  • UNDER THE NAME OF MELVILLE
  • INTERVIEW WITH BERNARD STORA
  • INTERVIEW WITH JOSÉ GIOVANNI
  • GINETTE VINCENDEAU PRESENTS LE CERCLE ROUGE