DENNIS SCHWARTZ 
IS THERE ANY GOOD 
IN SAYING 
EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?

 
BOB LE FLAMBEUR (BOB THE GAMBLER) (director/writer: Jean-Pierre Melville; screenwriter: Auguste Le Breton; cinematographer: Henri Decaë; editor: Monique Bonnot; cast: Roger Duchesne (Bob, The Gambler), Isabelle Corey (Anne), Guy Decomble (The Inspector), Daniel Cauchy (Paolo), Claude Cerval (Jean), Simone Paris (Yvonne), Howard Vernon (McKimmie); Runtime: 95; Jenner/Cyme/Play Art/OG; 1955-Fr.)

 
"A wonderful noir film."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A wonderful noir film, that is actually more about style and ambiance than it is about what usually underlines the dark themes of the ticklish noir film subjects that delve into the dark underbelly of their protagonist. All that kind of psychological trappings are superfluous to Bob the Gambler. He is more interested in taking care of his trenchcoat and fedora, giving handouts to those he likes, and looking good to the world as a man of success.

This is a story about a compulsive gambler Bob (Roger) who lives well in Paris without working, living by his own code of ethics and ability to live off his gambling. Impulsively, one day, Bob runs into a bad losing streak and decides to get a crew together to rob the Deauville Casino, a place where he believes there is 800 million francs in the vault but is an almost impossible place to pull off a heist. With a recklessly cool non-nonchalance, our hero gathers his crew despite all the obstacles in front of him: including betrayal in his ranks and the fact that his police friend knows that he is going to commit the crime.

The film is so beautifully framed reflecting the lighthearted charm and wit of the main character and the sleaziness of the neighborhood Bob loves. The camera lovingly follows him as he makes his rounds at night until he is finished playing craps and cards, driving down the sordid streets of Montmartre, entering the low-life parts of the Pigalle, watching out in a protective way for a young, attractive 16-year-old (Corey) newcomer to the city. Bob sees her eating French fries by a fast-food stand and getting picked up by a sailor on a motorbike, and feels responsible for her safety. She, as the film's femme fatale, will prove to be too willing to sleep with anyone to forge ahead; but, this does not deter Bob from liking her and treating her with respect. Bob is just concerned about her as he slowly drives by in his sleek Caddy convertible, taking notice of the street as if he were the one responsible for its safe-keeping. He finds her again in his favorite bar. But this time she is talking to a pimp he can't stand. So Bob gives her a decent meal and some cash, and the key to his room, but does not take advantage of her; instead, he makes it easy for his young protegé (Daniel) to move in on her.

This is so much a movie about how the young and old can be screw ups but are still okay with themselves, seemingly daring life to keep them from what they want to be. The now middle-aged Bob, who in his younger days got caught robbing a bank and spent time in jail, claims to be living a crime-free life for the past twenty years enjoying his flashy lifestyle and not looking back at things that went wrong. By the film's end we are convinced that we know a lot about Bob, and come to the conclusion that he's a pretty good guy. We might even be thinking to ourselves that even though he is linked to gambling and crime; nevertheless, he does possess a wonderful character, something that is worthy of our praise and, maybe, even our friendship.

A great film that is shot with perfection, capturing the nuances and finesse a master film-maker brings to his work, while shooting a low-budget b/w film. It tells a simple story but is done with such effervescence as to make us feel so much the better that we at least met this perfectly flawed character, even if it is only on film. For most of us, it is unlikely that we ever meet a true character like him in person.

REVIEWED ON 12/24/98                                      GRADE: A+

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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