Thursday 10 August 2017

Jean-Pierre Melville

There is an interesting article in The Guardian at the moment about the films of Melville. Here's an extract.
Melville is celebrated as a poet of lowlife crime and a master of style, the creator of a Gallicised American tough-guy aesthetic taken from the 1930s Hollywood gangster movies that he adored. Well into the 50s, 60s and 70s, Melville kept creating criminals and cops in snap-brim hats and trench coats, long after it was realistically plausible to do so, until it became an almost surreal mannerism. It is no accident that one of his most famous on-screen acting appearances is as Parvulesco, the fictional writer being interviewed in Jean-Luc Godard’s Breathless. Melville was the epitome of a certain type of style worshipper. He gave you the tough guy with the gun and the girl – the two things that Godard said you needed to make a film.

But it was more than that. Melville’s attitude to lawlessness was crucially created by the second world war. Born Jean-Pierre Grumbach, he had been a teenage fighter in the French resistance; he kept his codename “Melville” (in homage to Herman Melville) in professional life after the war, and never forgot a simple, brutal lesson about his countrymen: it was the rebels, the outlaws, the tough guys and the subversives who were temperamentally suited to be soldiers of the resistance. The instinct of the bourgeois law-abiding citizens – those obedient, nose-clean nine-to-fivers who just wanted a quiet life – was to collaborate with the Nazis. The criminals were the good guys.

Read the full article here: Jean-Pierre Melville: cinematic poet of the lowlife and criminal.

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