Geeks logo

Classic Movie Review: Bob Le Flambeur 1956

This week's classic on the Everyone's a Critic Movie Podcast is the French Heist pic, Bob Le Flambeur.

By Sean PatrickPublished 7 years ago 3 min read

The classic on this week’s Everyone’s a Critic Movie Review Podcast is, arguably, the very first film of the French New Wave, Bob Le Flambeur, translated as Bob the Gambler. Bob Le Flambeur is a classic American style heist film seen through the lens of a French admirer of American movies, Jean Pierre Melville. It is Melville’s French sensibility, the way he focuses not on the heist but on the atmosphere of a heist that separates Bob Le Flambeur from American heist movies which had and have turned safe-cracking and men smoking in back rooms leaning over complex drawings into classic film tropes.

Bob Le Flambeur stars Roger Duchesne as the calm, cool and collected, Bob Mantagne. Bob is a well-known and respected former gangster turned well-known and slightly less respected gambler. I shouldn’t put gambler second on Bob’s résumé, as betting seems to Bob as breathing is to the rest of us. As he recounts in the story, Bob was born with an Ace in his palm. Gambling is Bob’s only skill after he lost several years of his life behind bars after blowing a bank heist that killed a friend.

That friend’s son, Paolo (Daniel Cauchy), is now like an apprentice to Bob; a young hustler soaking up Bob’s aura while Bob works to keep the kid from making the mistakes that got his father killed. One of those mistakes would be teaming up with Marc, a pimp with an eye toward building a gangster portfolio by pulling one high-end job. Paolo is narrowly rescued from being at Marc’s side when he’s arrested for beating one of his working girls. Here the film shifts focus from Bob to impart important plot information that I will leave unmentioned here.

The scene is also a further introduction to Inspector Ledru (Guy Decomble) who happens to consider Bob a good friend despite his gangster past. Ledru is the key figure in the dramatic structure of Bob Le Flambeur and the most notably filmic character, a rarity in what is otherwise a less than straight-forward adaptation of the American style gangster movie. Ledru is a requirement of the plot and his arc is significant to the emotional underpinnings of what is otherwise an exercise in cool, French homage.

Bob Le Flambeur is fascinating in the way it drags its way toward becoming the kind of thriller we recognize in America. For the first hour or so of Bob Le Flambeur, you really have to be in love with the French aesthetic of cool to invest in the movie. If you aren’t in love with exercises in style and playful direction you may find yourself checking your watch and checking out on the drama. That said, if you make it to the final half hour, you’re in for a treat as Bob’s gambling addiction plus the heist plus the film’s very strange narration from director Jean Pierre Melville himself, combine to create something akin to a twist ending.

Do I love Bob La Flambeur in the way I love Godard’s Breathless or Truffaut’s Jules and Jim? No, but it is a notable influence on those filmmakers. Shot on a shoestring budget wherein the director was repeatedly shutting down the production until he could raise more cash, little of which went to the actors, Bob Le Flambeur was forced to break boundaries by the necessity of its budget constraints and yet the style that takes the place of the parts of the typical movie Melville could not afford became iconic and set the tone of the French cinema that came after. That’s why many consider Bob Le Flambeur the first film of the French New Wave, even as Melville was not part of the Truffaut, Godard, circle of filmmaking friends.

Listen to the next episode of the Everyone’s a Critic Movie Review Podcast for more on Bob Le Flambeur and my Top 5 heist movies in honor of this weekend’s release of Steven Soderbergh’s Logan Lucky starring Channing Tatum, Adam Driver, and Daniel Craig.


About the Creator

Sean Patrick

Hello, my name is Sean Patrick He/Him, and I am a film critic and podcast host for the I Hate Critics Movie Review Podcast I am a voting member of the Critics Choice Association, the group behind the annual Critics Choice Awards.

Reader insights

Be the first to share your insights about this piece.

How does it work?

Add your insights


There are no comments for this story

Be the first to respond and start the conversation.

Sign in to comment

    Find us on social media

    Miscellaneous links

    • Explore
    • Contact
    • Privacy Policy
    • Terms of Use
    • Support

    © 2024 Creatd, Inc. All Rights Reserved.