Faithfully unfaithful

Love and friendship in Melville's Le Doulos
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The world of Jean-Pierre Melville's Le Doulos (a.k.a. The Stoolie, 1963) is an incredibly complicated one. Perhaps this has to do with the fact that its inhabitants are ex-cons, petty thieves, snitches, and ambiguous lovers, all of whom are as loyal as they're unfaithful. Or maybe the complexity emerges from the strong sense of honor and morality that these underground characters share.

Maurice (Serge Reggiani), a robber, is sent to prison because somebody snitches on him. He's willing to believe that it was his best friend, Silien (Jean-Paul Belmondo), who betrayed him. But Silien, a small-time crook who we know almost immediately is also a police informant, proves to be the only person Maurice should have trusted.

The film's aesthetic adds to its layers. Borrowing elements from the gangster movie and film noir and combining them in a way that resembles a low-budget B flick, Melville creates a personal response to the French new wave. His characters and story are mere starting points from which to present a highly stylized, detached contemplation of the circumstances under which we can each become the most devoted or the most disloyal of people. All this might be inspired by Melville's experience with the World War II French Resistance, which the director most overtly examined in his acclaimed 1969 film Army of Shadows. (Maria Komodore)

LE DOULOS

Aug. 17–23, $6–$9

Castro Theatre

429 Castro, SF

(415) 621-6120

www.rialtopictures.com

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