Ok, so everyone knows I have my problems with the French. But I just saw these two movies and have to say that as my first taste of French crime, I was blown away.
I expected something similar to the Italian cop films I love so much, but this is a different beast. The scripts are more coherent, the action more subdued but more believable and the acting was extremely good all around.
BORSALINO AND COMPANY is one of the best directed films I've ever seen. Its a period piece, set in the late 30's and the attention to period detail is amazing. Many times I was reminded of THE GODFATHER. The funeral, some of the shoot-outs and the interplay between Alain Delon's gangster and his Italian fascist nemesis was well developed. Delon is an incredibly charismatic actor. Cold as ice, but he expresses emotion perfectly without saying a word. He also does a great drunk scene.
UN FLIC was great too. A little more ambigious than BORSALINO AND COMPANY and Delon's role was much smaller, but still a great film. Melville was a master director, and one of his gifts was what he DID NOT show you. There are key moments in the film where you think you know exactly whats coming and he confounds (in the best possible way) the viewer. This one was also a real eye opener in terms of Richard Crenna - he really shines in this and actually has the more important role. The opening bank sequence in the pouring rain is brilliant. Melville had a bit in common with Sergio Leone - they both knew how to use a tight close up on an actor's face. The other thing I loved was that everyone looked REAL - the film is filled with great character actors in small roles (and Catherine Deneuve for some eye candy).