Two men, strangers to each other, heading in opposite directions in life, Corey, a prisoner about to be released, Vogel in the process of being transferred across the country in handcuffs under the supervision of Inspector François Mattei from whom he engineers his escape as the train pauses at a rural station; the paths will cross at a service station, their lives colliding and tangling, caught together in the red circle.
Directed by Jean-Pierre Melville, Le Cercle Rouge was his penultimate film, released only three years before his early death at the age of fifty-five, and one of the top box office hits of 1970 in his homeland of France, a Franco-Italian collaboration which reunited him with his close friend Alan Delon with whom he had worked on Le Samouraï in 1967 and would again on his final film, Un Flic of 1971.
A slow paced crime thriller of deliberate action and considered consequence, Le Cercle Rouge has been remastered in 4K by StudioCanal for inclusion in their Vintage World Cinema range alongside a plethora of supporting material including a feature length visual memoir of Melville in his own words and those of his colleagues, an introduction to the director by Ginette Vincendeau and a revealing documentary on the production of Le Cercle Rouge itself.
The casting of Delon as Corey central to the film, Melville was unable to secure the actors he wished for Mattei or Vogel, the role of the police officer ultimately being taken by André Bourvil, a performer best known for comedy roles demonstrating equal dramatic ability, and the gunman Vogel by spaghetti Western star Gian Maria Volonté, a political activist whose beliefs brought him into conflict with Melville, Delon having to persuade his co-star to return to set after one incident.
The opening scenes taking place in the French countryside, the main action takes place in Paris, sophisticated and glamorous, assignations occurring in bars filled with dancing girls, contacts made with an alcoholic marksman who can disable the sophisticated photo-electric security system of the prestigious diamond merchant Corey and Vogel are targeting and a fence who can dispose of stolen jewellery valued at 20,000,000 francs.
A convoluted path taken to travel little distance, Le Cercle Rouge is unhurried, the three men caught in a downward spiral from which they have little will to diverge, Corey and Vogel sneaking across the rooftops of the city at twilight in an extended dialogue free scene where silence will determine their success, the sound of ringing alarm bells the disastrous prelude to gunfire which will seal their fate.
Le Cercle Rouge will be available on Blu-ray and DVD from StudioCanal from Monday 23rd November