Delon headlines classic French thriller

The recent death of Jean-Paul Belmondo marked a generational divide of movie star level actors in French cinema still alive, working, and worthy of retrospective viewings of their films.

Catherine Denueve (born 1943) and Jean-Louis Trintignant (born 1930) and Alain Delon (born 1935) have all given great performances in diverse films over several decades, many of which are cinema classics.

The next closest Gallic actor in age who achieved worldwide fame Gerald Depardieu was born in 1948. While some of his early roles were free-spirited in the manner of great ‘60s films he’s a mere child at 72-years.

The films Jacques Deray directed starring Alain Delon provide an actor/director link seen seldom in cinema. When collaborations results in a series of memorable films you notice.

Such are the nine films Deray, a proficient movie director, made with Delon.

After their first film together “La Piscine” (“The Swimming Pool”) they made multiple films, most of them crime related that tended towards pure action rather than cliché pulp. More than one title tells a story etched from historical criminal perspective, the French equivalent of a Clyde Barrow or a modern day equivalent of Billy the Kid.

A recent Blu-ray release from Cohen Media highlights two films directed by Deray and starring Delon. Both films were made late in the 1970s.

“Le gang” revels in a band of misfits who pulled off a string of bank robberies in the days after World War II. Their leader Delon begins to waver in his judgment after he falls for a petit femme. Since some of the story is told from her perspective it adds to the overall circle of life the film wants to observe.

Delon wears a Harpo Marx wig and steals every scene by mugging, and it may be one of his most memorable performances. Like in so many of the Deray/Delon partnerships the hero is also dead on arrival as the credits roll.
“Le Gang” has a cool reoccurring theme (composer Carlo Rustichelli) that sounds like the rolling cadence of a carnival attraction. We hear this music often almost like it’s a character in the film.

“Three Men to Kill” occupies the same real estate as “Three Days of the Condor.” Only imagine an ending where Redford gets offed in the last scene.

An arms dealer has a meeting and all the attendees die in accidents shortly afterwards. Delon happens to drive by one of the victims, trapped in an apparent car accident and rescues the driver, dropping the man off at a hospital.
Unbeknownst to Delon he’s stumbled onto a complicated assassination plot involving high-ranking officials and military ordinance sales.

The result has Delon at his coolest while casually evading an ever-expanding group of people trying to eliminate him. When Jerry Lewis wear blue jeans with white socks he looks like a dork, when Delon dons the same outfit he looks like the world’s most handsome man.

Delon shares script credit and at one point his character talks about being abandoned as a child and raised by a grandmother. In real life that’s exactly how the son Delon fathered with Nico was raised.

Delon became a star with his performance in the 1960 film “Purple Noon.” That crime pays scenario was taken from Patricia Highsmith’s novel “The Talented Mr. Ripley,” remade with the original ending and title in 1999.

The Delon-Deray partnership began with the 1969 “La Pascine,” itself recently remade in 2016 as “A Bigger Splash.”
Intrigue during an idyllic summer vacation erupts into sexual passion followed by murder. Delon and Romy Schneider star. The pair was romantically involved earlier in the decade when they were a kind of prototype celebrity couple.

“La Piscine” plays this Thursday and Friday, September 16 & 17 at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston’s Brown Auditorium.


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