31 January 2008 | snow0r
flambling back when it was still cool
Bob le Flambeur is, perhaps unsurprisingly, the story of Bob le Flambeur, a reformed gambling man/con-artist who's down on his luck and dreaming of a big score. When an idle remark alerts him to the opportunity to take the Deauville casino for its entire 800 million Franc-vault however, he can't refuse...
It's a heist movie from the days when audiences hadn't been overfed on diets of second-rate cool like Confidence and the Ocean's sequels. While its age and our inevitable familiarity with this sort of criminal underdog movie make the story a little predictable, Melville's stylish direction gives it a freshness fifty years on that even its most recent of modern counterparts tend to lack.
And a lot of it is down to Melville's vision. His camera captures the essence of what makes these movies cool: the black and white noir atmosphere, the sharp suits, the hats, and of course, the obligatory drinking and cigar smoke, and combines them, often in single smooth shots, giving the characters and their environments an element of stylish cool that they'd otherwise lack.
As a result, it's a movie that places style over subplot, with the majority of the characters never really becoming much more than types or fringe players. However, the movie is tied together by Bob, the titular flambeur, played with understated flair by Alain Delon. He exudes a cool authority and dominates the film, and while he is clearly an addict, his apparently casual approach to his victories and defeats quickly draws you in.
While the story is predictable and precious few of the characters engaging, Bob le Flambeur is not the best film you'll ever watch.
But it sure is cool.