The Best Old Movies on a Big Screen This Week: NYC Repertory Cinema Picks, May 3-9

Alain Delon in Jean-Pierre Melville’s LE CERCLE ROUGE (1970). Courtesy Film Forum. Playing Friday, May 5; Saturday, May 6; Sunday, May 7; Monday, May 8; and Thursday, May 11.

Le Cercle Rouge (1970)
Directed by Jean-Pierre Melville
The apocalypse, when it comes, will not be in a ball of fire, the rising of the seas, or locusts descending. It will be three people, who did everything right, pierced by a thousand bullets like St. Sebastian’s arrows. Le Cercle Rouge is the closest Jean-Pierre Melville got to his ideal, a mix of Jacques Becker’s Le Trou and Bresson’s Pickpocket, a blue-gray nocturnal reconnoitering of the flimsy chains keeping men in their place. Handcuffs are slipped, locks picked, safes cracked, prisons, great, small, real and imagined, are left behind. All that remains is the frail frame in which perfection resides. Melville’s heroes are closed off to us, so they could come from anywhere. Soldiers, maybe? Lifelong hoods. They stuff years of treachery and foxiness into those tan and black trench coats, and know the way out of every room they enter. But Melville had lived long enough to know that perfection isn’t really possible. That no matter who you style yourself to be, a host of mangy variables will always nip at your heels. Le Cercle Rouge, Melville’s finest work of post-war privateering, revels in the silent concentration, the unyielding focus of lost boys out to reshape a changing landscape of cops, robbers and cowards into the perfect symmetrical object they know it could be. Let the circle be unbroken. The world ends when you’re dead. Scout Tafoya (May 5, 7:20pm; May 6, 4:50pm; May 7, 4:40pm; May 8, 4:30pm, 9pm; May 11, 9:20pm at Film Forum’s Melville series)

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