Review by Erik Raschke
Film Forum JULY 27 - THURSDAY, AUGUST 9
Now, that it is possible to finally go into a coffee house without hearing about the genius of Quentin Tarantino or to listen to a scrawny, nose-pierced, self-described film buff say that they "f-king love that part in Resevoir Dogs where the cop gets his ear cut off," I think that the Film Forum has done justice by returning the French film noir flick Bob to the big screen.
With that said, and it was a lot, I also want to point out how in my mind "pulp" is to film, what a lot of "zines" are to literaturebad, pretentious art cloaked in needless violence that hangs over one like political correctness, if you disagree or find distaste with what is being presented then you are either stupid or shallow or a Republican. There is definitely good "pulp" art, such as Elmore Leonard and Charles Bukowski, and admittedly Pulp Fiction was a good movie, but they still leave a shadow of cheekiness and condescension, a lingering deeper than thou pathos not unlike Stu, the Sisters of Mercy-wearing T-shirt kid next to you in Introduction to Philosophy who underlined anything slightly misanthropic and compared his weekend to Descartes theories.
Bob is a kicking flick.
It's like watching a good French "Hawaii Five-O." Director Jean-Pierre Melville (the name itself oozes cigarette holders and black woolen berets) marvelously follows us through the ordinariness of Bob Montagne's (Roger Duchesne) mediocre day. We see the seedy side of fifties Paris life through the eyes of a washed up Flambeur or High-Roller as he goes from the casinos to the betting tables to cafes, betting heavily, losing heavily, and in the end breaking even. We see that, gosh, Miseur Bob isn't really all that bad because he doesn't loan money to a Pimp who has to leave town for beating one of his prostitutes and even takes a sappy-eyed princess-cum-fallen-angel Anna (Isabelle Corey) to a motel to get a good nights rest and think over if she really wants to turn tricks or not. Bob introduces fresh-faced kid Paulo (Danielle Cauchy) to his world and teaches him the ropes of being a gambler, even hoodwinking his apprentice into taking Anna back to his apartment to dirty the sheets in what must have been a sensational fifties piece of brief nudity. God, I love the French.
So the beginning is somewhat generic, but it's always nice to see France and people who jump over doors to get into convertibles. Also, this is "pulp," not deep, deep, deep drama like the Sopranos. This is fun and the director is at ease with his shots and camera angles, never taking us far from Bob or his crew or worse yet painfully closing in on lingering cigarette smoke which always symbolizes pop existentialism and the futility of human blah, blah, blah. We know where the story is going and have fun trying to figure out whose going to die in whose arms in the bloody finale Hamletesque shoot-out.
There's a great story by Jack London, although I can't think of it now and am too lazy to find it, about a boxer who fights his last fight because he's old. It's a story about how long can one live large. That's what Bob is about. It is a light exploration of what it takes to be a Flambeur, a word much like freelance which is fun to say to people when they ask what you do for a living. Bob is the ultimate Flambeur, the kind of guy where the bartenders, the hookers, and even the newspaper seller knows his name (Bob is very difficult to say much less remember in French).
When he goes on an "impossible" le bank le robbery, you know that fate and courage and references to the Iliad will be coming soon. Melville takes his time, showing Bob's anxiety, the innocent mistakes of the apprentice, and the proper way to backhand a hussy. There is the Detective Ledru (Gui Decombe) a gritty cop who understands the minds of criminals, a practice, ticking stop-watched, safe-cracking moment, and plenty of beers guzzled from those sissy quarter-pint Euro-glasses. Then, to make things even better, and to maintain that cover of arter-than-thou, Bob experiences a twist of ironic (or iconic depending on whether you though Morrissey was Poet Laureate or not) fate just before the heist.
Bob Le Flambeur is fun for the whole family. You can go see Bob and feel as if you are coffee-house-artistic, but still think about as much as you do while watching "Nash Bridges." Superficiality in art is not always bad, regardless of what the Dead Milkmen said, and Bob won't insult your intelligence like A.I. That's a good way to have fun in Le New York, much better than sipping Le Lattes and extolling Le Tarantino.
[email protected] | August 2001 | Issue 17
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