Carlos – review

Olivier Assayas's engrossing movie traces the life of one of the 20th century's most notorious terrorists

Conventional wisdom suggests that we look to America for the essential models of the crime movie, but in fact, in addition to providing a name for that most respected of Hollywood genres, the film noir, the French were way out front when, early in the last century, Louis Feuillade directed a succession of sophisticated, surreal serials of underworld activities that remain unsurpassed, among them Judex, Fantômas, Les vampires and Tih Minh.

This tradition was carried on in Marcel Carné's classics of the 1930s and after the second world war by Jacques Becker with Touchez pas au grisbi (based on a Série noire novel by Albert Simonin that was accompanied by a 14-page glossary of underworld argot) and Jean-Pierre Melville, who specialised in gangster movies of a purity unrivalled by Hollywood.

Numerous petits-maîtres

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