Un Flic (1972)

Un Flic (1972), written and directed by Jean-Pierre Melville.

("A Cop", aka Dirty Money).

The director's final film has severe silver-blue color grading, vastly colder than his previous films. Everyone in it is very cool: the bank robbers remain calm when the alarm sounds, the police seem indifferent to any public good, just answering calls and making arrests.

The detective's motto: "The only feelings mankind has ever inspired in policemen are those of indifference and derision...", a maxim of a 19th century criminal turned criminologist.

In a Melville picture the cops and crooks form a society and must meet on some common ground. Here it is a nightclub where Catherine Deneuve entertains both the detective and her partner, the master thief. The cop knows some things about them, but not everything, yet. He doesn't know about the bank job, itself to raise funds for a much bigger heist, stealing suitcases from a drug courier on a night train.

Melville doesn't tell us everything; the audience has to keep up and fill in the blanks. Mysteries remain: in the end, who had Deneuve's loyalty, and who did she betray?

In his two previous films for the director -- Le Samouraï (1967) and Le Cercle Rouge (1970) -- Alain Delon had played criminals. Given the choice this time he decided to be police.

Among the crooks are two American actors, Richard Crenna and Michael Conrad ("Let's be careful out there..."). I think they speak their own French, but it is sometimes hard to tell with dubbing.

Melville's fans tend to think of this as one of his lesser films. The train heist approaches Mission: Impossible levels of improbability. The toy train and helicopter effects are particularly unfortunate here.

On the good side:

Available on Blu-ray from Kino with a commentary track by a Melville scholar who defends the film against some of the criticism it has received.

About that toy train and helicopter: she wants to say the obvious artificiality was intentional. We see background projections through car windows all the time and are not supposed to mind, right? Me: in this case it stops us pretty hard.