• Bob Le Flambeur (Kino Lorber) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Kino Lorber
    Released on: July 2nd, 2019.
    Director: Jean-Pierre Melville
    Cast: Roger Duchesne, Isabelle Corey, Daniel Cauchy
    Year: 1956
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    Bob Le Flambeur – Movie Review:

    Jean-Pierre Melville’s classic 1956 picture tells the tale of Bob Montagne (Roger Duchesne), an aging Parisian man referred to by those who know him as Bob le Flambeur (which translates to Bob The Gambler in English). Bob is a man of good taste. He dresses well and always presents himself as sophisticated and cool. He spends most of his time in the nightclubs and casinos where he’s earned the respect of the other regulars. Bob also typically has very good luck. He’s smart enough that he’s socked away a decent savings from his exploits, while his regular winnings are typically always more than adequate when it comes to covering his daily expenses. He’s also quite generous, known as a big tipper and someone you can go to should you need a quick loan and kind enough to save a young prostitute named Anne (Isabelle Corey) from her abusive pimp Marc (Gérard Buhr).

    Eventually, however, Bob’s luck runs out and in little more than an instant, his savings are gone and he’s broke. Rather than panic, Bob decides to go a different route and quickly puts together a team of men, men whom he believes he can trust - Paulo (Daniel Cauchy), Roger (André Garet) and McKimmie (Howard Vernon) - to help him pull off a complicated heist at a casino in Deauville. Their planning is intricate and very, very detailed and they intend to leave nothing to chance. Unfortunately for Bob and his team, Detective Ledru (Guy Decombie) gets word of their plans when Paulo (Daniel Cauchy), spills the beans to Anne.

    Things get… complicated from there on out as the past that Ledru and Montagne share catches up with them all of which leads to a tense, stellar climax.

    Though it took almost two years to complete (watch how Duchesne’s hair changes) and was made on a very small budget, Bob le Flambeur would prove to be both quite popular and very influential. Melville’s contributions to the ‘cinema of cool’ really shift into high gear with this picture, and it all centers around the film’s central character. Bob isn’t going to win any beauty contests but he’s suave, seemingly always in control even when losing at a game of chance. He and his men put together a plan that’s just clever enough that it might work and even when it comes time to pull it off, knowing fully that Ledru is lurking about, he never breaks a sweat. Clearly, with this picture, Melville created the archetype that he and Alain Delon would perfect eleven years later with 1967’s Le Samourai.

    Duchesne plays the part with a riveting intensity. While he was never an A-list star, he’s very good here, coming across as very determined and very much wholly focused on his tasks. Guy Decombie is almost as good, a very fitting foe for Bob to be at odds with in the picture, while the supporting work from Cauchy, Garet, Corey and Jess Franco regular Howard Vernon is solid across the board. If the film was made with modest funding, that doesn’t take away from the visuals, clearly inspired by American film noir pictures made in the decades prior. Sets are limited but locations are used well and the film proves to be both tense and atmospheric.

    Bob Le Flambeur – Blu-ray Review:

    Bob Le Flambeur is presented on a 50GB disc in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 1.37.1. Taken from a new 4k restoration, the picture quality on this release is gorgeous. Contrast looks spot on, so we get nice, deep blacks alongside clean whites with a nice grey scale filling in the balance. The film is given a strong bit rate and, as such, there are no noticeable problems with any compression artifacts. The picture retains a filmic look throughout, there are no problems with any obvious edge enhancement or noise reduction to complain about. The image is also pretty much spotless, retaining the expected film grain but showing virtually no print damage. Detail is vastly improved over the older DVD release from Criterion, it isn’t even close – at the risk of gushing, this transfer is damn near perfect.

    The French DTS-HD 2.0 Mono track on the disc is also very strong. The track is clean and nicely balanced, exhibiting no audible defects at all. Range is understandably limited by the origins of the source material but that’s not a flaw. The score sounds good, the dialogue is clear – no problems at all. Optional subtitles are provided in English only.

    Extras start off with an audio commentary track from Nick Pinkerton that does a nice job of not only putting this picture into context alongside some of the director’s classic pictures that would follow in the wake of this one but also detailing his career up to and then past this point. He does a nice job of explaining the production history, makes some interesting observations about the film’s visuals, provides lots of information about the cast and crew – he covers a lot of ground here and it’s quite a good track.

    From there, check out the twenty-six-minute featurette Diary Of A Villain that explores the early part of Melville’s career leading up to and including the making of Bob Le Flambeur. It also covers the state of Paris at the time that the picture was made and how this is reflected in the film, the importance of Roger Duchesne work in the picture as well as his life and times (he led quite a life!) and a fair bit more. This is interesting and nicely assembled, a welcome addition to the disc to be certain.

    Aside from that, we get a trailer for the feature, bonus trailers for a few other French classics (Le Doulos, Touchez Pas au Grisbi, Razzia sur la chnouf and Alphaville) along with the requisite menus and chapter selection.

    Bob Le Flambeur – The Final Word:

    Bob Le Flambeur remains an influential and very effective film, an important picture in the early days of the French New Wave and just a wonderfully made, captivating film. Kino Lorber’s Blu-ray release features some nice extra features and presents the film itself in absolutely gorgeous condition. Highly recommended!

    Click on the images below for full sized Bob Le Flambeur Blu-ray screen caps!

    Comments 1 Comment
    1. Scott's Avatar
      Scott -
      A wonderful film. I'm also a huge fan of Neil Jordan's remake The Good Thief.