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Intellectual House o' Pancakes Webdiary

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2008-08-16 - 11:51 a.m.

I love scenes in movies where we get to watch someone at work, or completing a mundane task from start to finish, like Peter Fonda harvesting honey from bee hives in Ulee's Gold, the woodworking scenes in Le Fils, or the final scene of Big Night which transforms the making of an omelette into a quietly profound act.

On that score, Melville's Le Cercle Rouge--playing this weekend as part of Film Forum's French Crime Wave series (or Netflix)--delivers the goods.

A jewel-robbery film featuring a passel of trench-coated (and Grecian-formula'd) Parisian criminals, it bears none of the antsy, quick-cut traits of a typical heist flick. Instead, the action unfurls slowly, gently, without a lot of talk, rolling out like fog through the woods. (There are woods and fog in the movie, too).

We see Yves Montand (looking, in 1970, disconcertingly like Walter Matthau) preparing for a Big Job by creating special bullets in his home lab, and it's mesmerizing.

The robbery itself, one long extended scene in real time with virtually no dialogue, is completely absorbing, almost soothing, and by the end of it, one thinks, "Yes, I would like to be a French criminal in 1970--this is satisfying work."

I really like this Laura Marling gal, especially when she veers towards the Neutral Milk Hotel/Beirut end of the spectrum, not so much when she's doing the Joni Mitchell thing.

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