Jean-Pierre MelvilleFrance84 minutes1959B&WFrench
Delirious fun, Melville's film noir so revels in its tawdry excursion into Manhattan's underworld that it sometimes feels like it was shot by Weegee. (The inky cinematography of nocturnal New York, including many of its landmarks, is one of the film's glories.) In his only starring role, Melville himself plays Moreau, a bow-tied journalist assigned to find out why a French diplomat and Resistance hero suddenly disappeared from the United Nations. He drags another journalist, an alcoholic photographer for Paris-Match, out of his sodden bed to accompany him, and the deux hommes trawl Manhattan nightclubs and backstage dressing rooms to question various women from the diplomat's promiscuous life. (In its interrogative mode, the film can feel like a parody of Citizen Kane.) Where there are two, one will betray, as Melville's maxim goes, and just which home will deceive the other becomes the capper mystery of the director's twisty tale. "[Melville's] mastery of mood, informed by his singular synthesis of Gallic existentialism and B-movie grit, invigorates every frame" (The Los Angeles Times).