Wednesday, August 10, 2011

293. Bob le flambeur/Bob the Gambler (1955)

Running Time: 102 minutes
Directed By: Jean-Pierre Melville
Written By: Auguste Le Breton, Jean-Pierre Melville
Main Cast: Roger Duchesne, Isabelle Corey, Daniel Cauchy, Guy Decomble, Andre Garet


Noticing that "Le Samourai" was nearing the top of my Netflix queue as one of my next 60s films to watch, I decided to turn to the streaming portion of Netflix and knock out Melville with a one, two punch, watching "Bob the Gambler" last night.

Bob (Duchesne) is an aging, ex-convict who just happens to be a compulsive gambler. In fact, among his circles in Paris, Bob is knows as "Bob the Gambler", as he spends all hours of the night trying to double his money, playing cards or betting on race horses. Bob is also a very generous man. This is shown when he gives young Anne (Corey) money for a hotel and later offers her his place to stay and a bed to sleep in. Bob wins some money gambling and loses some money gambling, but for the most part, he finds himself counting his losses. When a race horse that Bob bets big on comes in, Bob's first instinct is to go to the Deauville Casino and ride his wave of luck. While at the casino, Bob loses everything, but a pal of his strikes up a conversation with one of the croupiers, who tells him that on the morning of the Grand Prix, the casino safe will house about 800 million francs. With losing still fresh in his mind, Bob can't help but revert to his old ways of thinking and it doesn't take him long to hatch a scheme to burgle the casino and make off with the loot. Bob puts together a team, including Paolo (Cauchy), his partner in crime, pays off the croupier for floor plans to the casino, gathers safe cracking equipment and goes to work!


I was watching the director's commentary on "Hard Eight" (P.T. Anderson's first feature) about three years ago and heard Anderson cite "Bob the Gambler" as an influence on that film. I've wanted to see it since then, but just got around to it last night. I know - procrastination at it's finest! Anyway, my advice on that topic is never wait to see a picture that you can see today. The longer you wait, the more you're going to build it up in your head and the bigger chance there will be for disappointment. I really liked "Bob the Gambler", but there was still a smidgen of disappointment because I was expecting a surefire '10/10', no questions asked. While I wouldn't go so far as to call it a perfect movie, it was still damn good. The film had melancholy tones and didn't force itself upon you. It just allowed itself to be and slowly brought to the surface the relevant points, as we needed them. It captured the city of Paris in beautiful black and white and flowed like a jazz music, showing off qualities that were crisp, sexy and smooth.

The whole cast did a fine job in the pre-French New Wave, film noir. Roger Duchesne and Isabelle Corey fit right into the mildly dark, but often melancholy atmosphere. The film speaks on several different points, including loneliness and fate. Bob seemed to be insecure about his future and felt a need to surround himself with people and money, so that he could age comfortably and with companionship. I wondered if Bob gambled so that he'd have the money to give to lonely drifters on the street, or so that he could buy a bigger house and offer it to young girls like Anne. When the film boils down to the last thirty minutes or so, so many combustible elements have been put into play that the film becomes unpredictable. Will Bob and his crew pull of a successful heist? Will they get caught? Will Bob get gunned down in the heat of crime? I thought for sure Bob was going to die at the end. The whole film just had such a somber tone, that I couldn't imagine it ending with Bob still breathing. But it ended and Bob didn't die and it ended with my seal of approval.

Give "Bob the Gambler" a chance and you may just be surprised. My word of advice, however, would be to stick with it. It starts out just a tad slow, but definitely picks up and I think that by the time Bob is being ushered into the back of a police car, you'll be pleased.

RATING: 8/10 By the way, the last time I watched "Le Samourai" (which was several years ago), I gave it a '10/10'. We'll see what it gets this go a few days.


Coming Soon:
Roman Holiday (1953 - William Wyler)
Le Samourai (1967 - Jean-Pierre Melville)

August 10, 2011 1:12pm


  1. Well timed! I recently bought a Melville box set, and have been relishing it for the last week... and only this afternoon did 'Army of shadows'.
    (But I cannot get my hands on a reasonably priced 'Le samourai')
    This is good Isn't it (He said trying to make up for my views on Audry Hepburn movies!). Glad to be back in agreement with you..

  2. Indeed Ray, it's always nicer to be in agreement. It's a shame you can't find a copy of "Le Samourai" because as I said it scored a '10/10' with me the last time I saw it. We'll see if that holds up this go around, but it will probably be the next review I post.

  3. I watched this again yesterday, and was struck by the 'electronic wizaedry' they used.. And how, on release, people would have been wowed by the beebs and wavy lines.. Two or three heavy suitcases, a big set of speakers, the oscilascope (Sp?).
    And tha in some aweful remake they'd just have some titchy box the size of a cigarrette pack with a blinking red light.. that somehow would not be as beleivable..


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