Archive of films deuxième souffle / Le deuxième souffle

1966, 150 min

Section: Tribute to Jean-Pierre Melville
Year: 2012

The first of Melville’s precisely executed movies where the concept of time and detailed depictions of crimes play a major part. Here we follow the tale of prison fugitive Gu, whose plan to escape to Italy is hampered by a lack of funds. Lino Ventura excels in the role of the negative hero.


Jean-Pierre Melville is considered a French director of crime movies characterized by plots divided into scenes of high action. Le deuxième souffle is perhaps the first in his filmography in which the criminal plot and the action are skillfully linked. Despite the film’s complicated realization and the numerous compromises that influenced its resulting form, it is one of the director’s key works, classified according to style as an American film noir. This time around, the cinematic story differs substantially from its literary inspiration. The book is more a documentary account of actual events, while the film’s story serves as the events’ symbolic connection (Melville was never interested in realism in film). One of the most distinctive characteristics of the director’s style comes to the fore – the detailed filming of the commission of a crime. Whereas the scene in the novel is extremely brief, onscreen it becomes a masterly show. (Conversely, the director ultimately edited out the scenes of torture even though not directed to do so by the censors.) More than ever before we realize that the brilliant handling of editing and camera allowed Time to take the leading role in his movies more and more often. In the end it doesn’t matter that we are watching a crook nicknamed Gu (Lino Ventura) who, after escaping from prison, tries to get enough money together to escape to Italy. In terms of form, the narrative method takes precedence over the plot, whose most interesting feature is that it proves to be another variation on the theme of betrayal and the relationship between a criminal and a cop.


Editions René Château
72, rue Lauriston, 751 16, Paris
E-mail: [email protected]

Institut français
8-14 Rue de Capitaine Scott, 750 15, Paris
Tel: +33 153 698 300
Fax: +33 153 698 300
E-mail: [email protected]

About the film

Black & white, 35 mm

Section: Tribute to Jean-Pierre Melville
Director: Jean-Pierre Melville
Screenplay: Jean-Pierre Melville podle knihy / based on the book by José Giovanni
Dir. of Photography: Marcel Combes
Music: Bernard Gérard
Editor: Monique Bonnot, Michèle Boehm
Producer: André Labay, Charles Lumbroso
Production: Les Prodctions Montaigne
Cast: Lino Ventura, Paul Meurisse, Raymond Pellegrin, Christine Fabréga
Contact: Editions René Château, Institut français

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