Blu-ray Review: Un Flic [Special Edition] | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Monday, September 21st, 2020  

Un Flic [Special Edition]

Studio: Kino Lorber Studio Classics

Nov 26, 2019 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

Un Flic fills every square on the Jean-Pierre Melville bingo card – a lead turn from Alain Delon, brilliant and silent heist scene (two of ‘em), lack of strong female characters, nightclub dancers and owners operating behind the cops’ backs, immeasurable cool, trench coats, fedoras, muted color palette, American cars in Paris.

One can argue Un Flic (A Cop) is the most Melville of all his late-period gangster films, if checking boxes alone ace the test. The grays and blues dominate – the color is desaturated to near black-and-white, causing some characters to appear almost ghoulish. The pallid complexion of Delon’s detective mirrors his internal detachment and resignation as he is called from one unrelated crime scene to another while simultaneously investigating the big bank robbery that opens the film. These are wearied men with a hidden anger fighting the detachment required by unsavory surroundings.

Delon’s antagonist, a club owner (Richard Crenna) with whom Delon shares both a mistress (Catherine Deneuve) and a friendship, is introduced in the opening scene driving a large sedan to a seaside bank. One by one he and his three well-dressed accomplices enter the bank, draw their guns and nearly silently — save for “this is a holdup” — rob the place blind. One of the three is shot, setting in motion the trail of evidence that will follow for the rest of the film. The bank robbery is later followed by a daring helicopter-to-train heist at night, where as much attention is paid to Crenna’s meticulous disguise and preparation as is the actual robbery.

Melville’s characters’ quiet machismo is made fascinating by the implied codes of conduct and honor that define even the immoral occupations of a hitman, like in Le Samourai, or the themes of brotherhood and loyalty in Le Cercle Rouge. The dialogue is so spare, and the atmosphere is so opaque, that the audience is allowed to fill in the characters’ psychology with each side-eye and clenched jaw serving as a prompt. It works in Melville’s best films, but here, save for Crenna and Delon, there isn’t much to go on.

Somewhere between sitting down to write the script and editing the footage, Melville opened the hood and tossed everything that didn’t explicitly involve itself in internal combustion. The accomplices are generally warm bodies on screen without characterization, and Deneuve is given nothing to do other than to stand beautiful. It’s easy to wonder if Un Flic was a vehicle for Melville to film two heist scenes and not much else. Admirers and minimalists will enjoy falling right back into his Paris, there’s comfort with familiarity, and genuine thrills.

This new Blu-ray edition from Kino Larber includes a handful of trailers, a film commentary and two docs — one is an insightful look into Melville’s influence on both Japanese and Chinese cinema (and vice versa). The other consists of two recent and fascinating interviews with Delon’s brother, Jean Francois, who was assistant director on set, and with the film’s script supervisor Florence Gabin (daughter of legendary French actor Jean Gabin). Both are unflinching in their praise and criticism of Melville as a director and as a man, and of the film’s strengths and weaknesses. The intimidating, Stetson-and-sunglasses eccentric left behind several great films, and some so-so efforts, and both Gabin and Delon’s comments indicate even they believe Un Flic falls into the latter category.

Follow Ed McMenamin on twitter at @EdMcMenamin


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