Le deuxieme souffle
Toronto International Film Festival
TORONTO -- Jean-Pierre Melville's seminal 1966 gangster movie, "Le deuxieme souffle" gets a second wind courtesy of a visually dazzling remake by Alain Corneau.
Turning to the 1958 Jose Giovanni novel as his source material, the veteran French filmmaker has added a gorgeous dollop of saturated color to the noir palette, in addition to much more dialogue, while still retaining the original's Very. Deliberate. Pace.
The striking cinematography and production design, combined with a masterful lead performance by the always effective Daniel Auteuil, certainly make for potent Cesar Awards bait.
It also stands a good chance of securing American distribution at the Toronto International Film Festival, where it received its world premiere, although at a very noticeable two-and-a-half hours it could be a tough sell for those audiences accustomed to bullets flying with greater speed.
Auteuil more than capably fills the late Lino Ventura's shoes as Gustave "Gu" Minda, a career gangster who has busted out of prison, where he was serving a life sentence.
Waiting for him on the outside is the beautiful and determinedly self-possessed Manouche (Monica Bellucci), who wants them to start a new life in Italy, but the cash-strapped Gu insists on first pulling one last job so that he'll be able to provide her with the kind of life to which she's been accustomed.
The job goes without a hitch, which serves to further infuriate the police as embodied by the cagey Inspector Blot (Michel Blanc) and the sadistic Fardiano (Alexandre Faure), who aren't above employing any dirty trick necessary to bring Gu and his gang to justice.
While Corneau's cast is, across-the-board, excellent, this is Auteuil's film all the way.
When we first see Gu during that jail break, he looks like a beaten-down, scared rabbit, but beneath that hesitant demeanor there's a lingering intensity lying in wait for the right moment to ignite once more.
A man who lives by a strict moral code when it comes to not ratting on one's colleagues, Gu is the kind of character who would have been right a home in a Greek tragedy.
Startlingly lit and shot (by Yves Angelo), the film's moody atmosphere is further enhanced by Thierry Flamand's pungent period art direction, which wears well under all those errant bullet holes and neatly contained pools of blood.
Completing the effect are costume designer Corinne Jorry's tough guy suits and composer Bruno Coulais' swirling, insistent score.
LE DEUXIEME SOUFFLE (SECOND WIND)
ARP/TF1 Films/Canal +/Cinecinema Kiosque/Sogecinema 4/Sogecinema 5
Director-writer: Alain Corneau
Based on the novel by Jose Giovanni
Producers: Michele Halberstadt, Laurent Petin
Director of photography: Yves Angelo
Production designer: Thierry Flamand
Music: Bruno Coulais
Costume designer: Corinne Jorry
Editor: Marie-Josephe Yoyotte
Gu: Daniel Auteuil
Manouche: Monica Bellucci
Blot: Michel Blanc
Orloff: Jacques Dutronc
Alban: Eric Cantona
Venture Ricci: Daniel Duval
Joe Ricci: Gilbert Melki
Fardiano: Alexandre Faure
MPAA rating: Not yet rated, running time 156 minutes