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The narrative unfolds through two characters, Maurice and Silien, and consistently switches back and forth between them, leading the audience to grasp randomly for a distinct main character or hero (despite the fact that both are criminal anti-heroes). Through Maurice and Silien’s actions, the film explores just how deeply qualities such as friendship and loyalty run.
Le Doulos begins by introducing us to Maurice, an ex-con, just released from prison after serving a six-year sentence. He then murders his friend, Gilbert, and steals the jewels he had been hiding, products of a recent heist. Shortly afterwards, Maurice plans a heist of a rich man’s estate and shares his plan with Silien, who is rumored to be a police informant. Silien is later picked up and questioned by the police. The film unfolds from there, incorporating a number of plot twists revealed through Melville’s traditionally styled hard-boiled dialogue and picturesque visuals.
Source : Wikipedia
Melville’s films balance a fine line between genres – while Le Doulos could be seen as a simple gangster film, Melville has intricately interwoven critical elements of classic film noir, drama and French new wave filmmaking. Melville even incorporates vague, but noticeable, elements of that could later be called “magical realism.” Several sets are manipulated to intensify the feelings of the characters. For example: in a wide-shot, a character stands under the light of a single lamppost in the middle of a field, wrapped in a heavy mist.
Of course, as a film-noir, Le Doulos boasts an incredible use of shadows, also almost to the point of impossibility. In some interior scenes, it seems as though the light is coming from so many odd directions that such a room could not be possible – however, this does not appear to be an error on part of the cinematography, rather an intentional decision made by Melville.
Melville focuses intensely on those staples of the crime film, trench coats and hats, almost to the point of fetishism. Added to the pseudo-surreal cinematography mentioned above, Melville’s world, in which literally every man is garbed in a buttoned and fastened trench coat and donned with a hat seems to be at a disconnect with our own. This similar wardrobe sometimes also has the effect of causing the audience to lose track of which character is which – sometimes, this has a consequence on the narrative, while other times it does not.
Obvious themes explored in Le Doulos are those of friendship and loyalty among men. Several characters are manipulated, backstabbed and framed for crimes they did not commit. Murder is, of course, prevalent as well. However, these are only broad themes that assist the film’s storytelling, while certain other, more socially implicating themes, are subtly tucked away.
Traditional to several Melville films is the notion that the French police force of the time was fallible to the point of exploitation based on patterns of officials’ behavior. In Le Samourai, the main character plans around the assumed reaction of the police force. However, Melville reassures us that all hope is not lost: in each film, the police force saves face by employing the services of an impeccably clever detective character. Here, the police superintendent notices such subtleties as the way in which one man’s trench coat had been wrinkled – from this, it was evident that the man had been physically held up after being shot while attempting to escape the police. This is evidence that there was an accomplice, mysteriously absent from the crime scene.
Another theme consistent with other Melville films is the imperfections of subjectivity in memory, particularly when under duress. In one scene, Silien pressures a woman into convincing herself that she witnessed something she did not. In Le Samourai, during a police investigation, witnesses are led to doubt what it is they had indeed seen.
Female characters are used to a greater extent in this film than in some of Melville’s others. Here there are three women, all of whom function as extensions of the men. One woman is manipulated by Silien to agree to attest to a fabricated incident. Another woman serves as a maternal figure, while the final one is simply an object of desire to be obtained, though also a possessor of critical knowledge. These distinctly different types of women are all displayed in a negative light, and indeed Melville has gained a reputation for being a bit of a misogynist.
Source : Wikipedia