Browsing Tag

1956

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Birth of the Cool: An Appreciation for the Cinema of Jean-Pierre Melville

With the birth of the gangster genre during the early part of the twentieth century, the figure of the gangster protagonist has suffered the same fate in countless pictures, good and bad: to die an ignominious death or be locked up forever removed from society’s purview, yet even though the template for the gangster genre hasn’t changed since the time of Griffith. The genre’s adoption and re-appropriation by filmmakers from all over the world has led to several unique strains of the gangster archetype. Whereas the American gangster follows a rise-and-fall narrative, usually employing an immigrant or minority protagonist, the Japanese yakuza is torn between the contradictory values of duty and personal loyalty, while the Gallic version of the gangster archetype was a blend of American genre tropes and existentialist angst. Our French cousins injected Camus and Sartre into characters that wouldn’t be too far off from the early Warner Bros. gangster pictures of the 1930’s. And while there have been many contributors to the Gallic strain of crime pictures the most important of these is French auteur Jean-Pierre Melville. A man that not only dabbled in making gangster pictures he invented the image of the hip, cool, laconic gangster. An image appropriated by the likes of Quentin Tarantino, Michael Mann, John Woo, Wong Kar-Wai, Johnnie To, and Jim Jarmusch.