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August 31, 2021

Delon and Deray - Two Films

le gang.jpg
The Gang / Le Gang
Jacques Deray - 1977

Three Men to Kill / Trois hommes à abattre
Jacques Deray - 1980
Cohen Film Collection BD Region A

Iconic French film star Alain Delon made nine films under the direction of Jacques Deray. With the exception of their first collaboration, La Piscine (1969), the films were all produced by Alain Delon. The most famous of these films is probably Borsalino, with an even bigger French star, Jean-Paul Belmondo. Delon and Deray also made Flic Story with the formidable Jean-Louis Trintignant. Aside from those two films, Delon was supported by a cast of actors generally unknown outside France. Like the two films on this blu-ray, the films had limited distribution primarily in Europe as well as Japan, where Delon was extremely popular.

The Gang is about a group of criminals who made headlines in France around 1945. The film is loosely based on actual events. The source book was by Roger Borniche, a police inspector turned crime novelist. This film followed Borniche's autobiographical Flic Story which had Delon starring as Borniche, in pursuit of a vicious criminal played by Trintignant. In The Gang, Delon is Robert, the leader of the group of five men. Jean-Claude Carriere co-wrote the screenplay, and is hand is apparent in some of the dialogue. Part of the film is from the point of view of Marinette, a coat check girl who impulsively becomes Robert's girlfriend. The film hints at the wartime lives of three of the gang members with one a member of the Resistance, one who was a collaborator, and one who was a German prisoner.

This is one easy going gangster film. There is less interest in the crimes than in the camaraderie of the gang. From what I gleaned from the dialogue, the police were in a state of disorganization in the months that Paris was liberated from the Nazis. This allowed Robert and the gang to pull several robberies in a day. Part of the relaxed attitude of the film is conveyed by the tinkly piano score by Carlo Rustichelli. There is attention to period detail with the cars and clothing, but Delon's curly mop is distracting and anachronistic.

Far better is Three Men to Kill, one of Delon's most popular films. The source novel, available in English as Three to Kill is by Jean-Patrick Manchette. Delon had a credited hand in the screenplay. While I have not read the novel, I have read other works by Manchette, whose protagonists are usually loners with a jaundice view of the world. As portrayed in the film, Michel, a professional gambler, appears a bit more polished than Manchette's characters. What Delon and Deray bring over is a more graphic violence in keeping with Manchette's world.

Acting as a good samaritan, Michel takes a man injured in a one-car accident from a country road to a nearby hospital. What follows is the death of three associates of a top industrialist, with Michel over his head in a series of cascading events with an elusive connections. The film includes a car chase staged by Remy Julienne that includes crashes, turned over cars climaxing in a gas station on fire. The sense of mystery is maintained through the end. Even compared to Delon's films made with Jean-Pierre Melville, this is darker and more deeply pessimistic.

Both films were sourced from restored prints, in French with English subtitles. The only extras are trailers for the respective films.

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at August 31, 2021 08:34 AM