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1948, Lobster Films, 97 min, France, Dir: Jean-Devaivre

Among the most accomplished features by director Jean-Devaivre (whose career helped inspire Bertrand Tavernier’s SAFE CONDUCT), this thriller puts the conventions of the detective film to wonderfully entertaining use. When a pharmaceutical magnate begins receiving anonymous threatening letters, Stanislas-Octave Seminario (future DIABOLIQUE star Paul Meurisse) is enlisted to help; as “SOS” investigates, the mystery deepens when a member of the magnate’s family is poisoned, murmuring “the lady of eleven o'clock” as he died.

1966, Janus Films, 150 min, France, Dir: Jean-Pierre Melville

This riveting crime drama based on the novel by José Giovanni tells the story of a middle-aged hood (Lino Ventura) who breaks out of jail and organizes a new gang, determined to prove he still has the juice. Melville’s brutal, crackling noir contrasts Ventura’s “old-world craftsmanship” against the younger generation of Nouvelle Vague crooks. According to critic Tom Milne, the film “established Melville’s reputation as a brilliant refurbisher of the immemorial imagery of the genre - gleaming night streets, gunmen prowling in deserted stairways.”

1969, Rialto Pictures, 145 min, France/Italy, Dir: Jean-Pierre Melville

Arguably director Jean-Pierre Melville's most personal film (he fought in the French underground during World War II), this shattering portrait of the early days of the French Resistance is not so much a crime film as it is a fascinating companion to the director’s more famous thrillers. The dark, fatalistic tone and the themes are all there from Melville’s noirs: betrayal, the loss of honor and the mechanics of brutality. Legendary tough guy Lino Ventura stars in what Melville called “a nostalgic pilgrimage back to a certain period which profoundly marked my generation.” With Simone Signoret and Paul Meurisse.

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