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At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘L’Armée des ombres’, 21 June 2007

L’Armée des ombres 
directed by Jean-Pierre Melville.
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... When critics accused Jean-Pierre Melville of shooting his characters as if they were in a gangster movie, he didn’t take the remark as a compliment. ‘Absolutely idiotic,’ he said. He was right in a sense, because the critics were not intending a compliment, but what was he resisting? Melville’s best-known films – Le Doulos (1962), Le Samouraï (1967), Le Cercle rouge (1970), for example – are gangster movies, versions of America converted into sheer style by the transfer to France ...

Who does that for anyone?

Adam Shatz: Jean-Pierre Melville, 20 June 2019

Jean-Pierre MelvilleLe Solitaire 
by Bertrand Teissier.
Fayard, 272 pp., €22, October 2017, 978 2 213 70573 6
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Jean-Pierre Melvilleune vie 
by Antoine de Baecque.
Seuil, 244 pp., €32, October 2017, 978 2 02 137107 9
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... In August​ 1943, Jean-Pierre Grumbach, a former soldier in the 71st artillery regiment in Fontainebleau, arrived in London. Grumbach, an Alsatian Jew from Paris, 25 years old, wanted to offer his services to the Forces Françaises Combattantes (FFC) – de Gaulle’s Free French. His journey had begun seven months earlier in Marseille, where he had distributed pamphlets for the Resistance under cover of his work in the textile trade ...

Secretly Sublime

Iain Sinclair: The Great Ian Penman, 19 March 1998

Vital Signs 
by Ian Penman.
Serpent’s Tail, 374 pp., £10.99, February 1998, 1 85242 523 7
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... scribes, the cultural commodity brokers? That Abel Ferrara or Wim Wenders or Fassbinder or Jean-Pierre Melville would recognise that they were the only ones who understood the secret text, the story beneath the story. And they would be whisked away, club class, to an air-conditioned suite to collaborate on some long-incubated millennial ...

At the Musée de la Libération

Jeremy Harding: During the Occupation, 10 October 2019

... people caught between varying states of complicity and outright defiance. Filmmakers – Truffaut, Jean-Pierre Melville, Marcel Ophüls, Louis Malle, Claude Berri and recently the creators of Un village français, a seven-season blockbuster for France 3 – have handled the business of improvisation and negotiation much better. Writers were quicker still ...

You’ve got it or you haven’t

Iain Sinclair, 25 February 1993

Inside the Firm: The Untold Story of the Krays’ Reign of Terror 
by Tony Lambrianou and Carol Clerk.
Pan, 256 pp., £4.99, October 1992, 0 330 32284 2
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Gangland: London’s Underworld 
by James Morton.
Little, Brown, 349 pp., £14.99, September 1992, 0 356 20889 3
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Nipper: The Story of Leonard ‘Nipper’ Read 
by Leonard Read and James Morton.
Warner, 318 pp., £5.99, September 1992, 0 7515 0001 1
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Smash and Grab: Gangsters in the London Underworld 
by Robert Murphy.
Faber, 182 pp., £15.99, February 1993, 0 571 15442 5
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... way the gangs dressed for history. They were as serious as the America-obsessed Parisian hoods of Jean-Pierre Melville. The style was different, hair instead of hats, but the measured narcissism was equally threatening. One look at the mean three-point handkerchief in Reg’s breast-pocket, a glimpse at the stark geometry of tine-trenches in Ron’s ...

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