(aka "Doulos: The Finger Man" or "The Finger Man" or "Lo Spione")

directed by Jean-Pierre Melville
France 1961

The backstabbing criminals in the shadowy underworld of Jean-Pierre Melville's Le doulos have only one guiding principle: “Lie or die.” A stone-faced Jean-Paul Belmondo stars as enigmatic gangster Silien, who may or may not be responsible for squealing on Faugel (Serge Reggiani), just released from the slammer and already involved in what should have been a simple heist. By the end of this brutal, twisting, and multilayered policier, who will be left to trust? Shot and edited with Melville’s trademark cool and featuring masterfully stylized dialogue and performances, Le doulos (slang for "informant") is one of the filmmaker’s most gripping crime dramas.

***

Burglar Maurice Faugel has just finished his sentence. He murders Gilbert Vanovre, a receiver, and steals the loot of a break-in. He is also preparing a house-breaking, and his friend Silien brings him the needed equipment. But Silien is a police informer ... A movie whose "all characters are two-faced, all characters are false", according to director Jean-Pierre Melville.

Jean-Pierre Melville's existentialized gangster films are one of the glories of the French cinema, American forms played out with European self-consciousness. This 1962 effort stars Jean-Paul Belmondo as an informer on the lam, but plot pales before Melville's detailed noir imagery of dingy hotel rooms, back alleys, and subterranean passages. Melville's love for American films (he was a man of taste as well as talent) was one of the most profound influences on the New Wave generation.

Excerpt from Dave Kehr's capsule on the Chicago Reader located HERE

Posters

Theatrical Release: March - 1961 - France

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DVD Comparison:

BFI -  Region 2 - PAL vs. Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC

(BFI - Region 2 - PAL LEFT vs. Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC RIGHT)

DVD Box Cover

 

DistributionBFI - Region 2 - PALCriterion Collection Spine #447 - Region 1 - NTSC
Runtime1:44:20 (4% PAL Speedup)1:49:04
Video

1.66:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 4.62 mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s

1.66:1 Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 5.63 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s
 

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate:  BFI

 

Bitrate:  Criterion

 

AudioFrench (Dolby Digital 2.0 Dolby) French (Dolby Digital mono)
SubtitlesEnglish (non-removable) - They keep returning !English, none
Features

Release Information:
Studio: BFI Video Publishing

Aspect Ratio:
Original aspect Ratio 1.66:1

Edition Details:

• Commentary by French film expert Prof. Ginette Vincendeau
• 4:3 Trailer (2:16)
• Director's Biography (3:16)
• Interview with assistant director Volker Schlöndorff (4:3 -  13:12)
• Introduction by Ginette Vincendeau (21:18)
• Acknowledgements


DVD Release Date:
April 26th, 2004
Transparent Keep Case
Chapters: 13

Release Information:
Studio: Criterion

Aspect Ratio:
Original aspect Ratio 1.66:1

Edition Details:

• Selected-scene audio commentary by film scholar Ginette Vincendeau, author of Jean-Pierre Melville: An American in Paris (31:04)
• Video interviews with directors Volker Schlöndorff (13:18) and Bertrand Tavernier (15:30), who served as assistant director and publicity agent, respectively, on the film
• Archival interviews with Melville and actors Jean-Paul Belmondo and Serge Reggiani (4:26, 7:10, 3:15)
• Original theatrical trailer (2:17)
• 4-page new essay by film critic Glenn Kenny

DVD Release Date:
October 7th, 2008
Transparent Keep Case
Chapters: 13

Comments:

ADDITION: Criterion NTSC - September 08': As anticipated the Criterion detail clearly eclipses the softness of the BFI image. I had some difficulty in matching the captures (this initial review was done quite a long time ago) but I don't see anything cropped or missing from the frames. The Criterion is dual-layered, progressive and anamorphic (both are in 1.66:1 ratio) - if the black levels have been minor-ly boosted it only helped bring up the sharpness a notch. There is a bit of noise. Anyway, the Criterion looks pretty darn good and is the best of the two in terms of visual quality.<

I didn't do an extensive comparison of the audio but in my limited testing the Criterion mono actually seemed a modicum cleaner. The Criterion subtitles are removable and the BFI are not.

Both editions supplements are very much appreciated and the Criterion have duplicated some from the BFI while adding even more. It's the same audio commentary (scene select) by film scholar Ginette Vincendeau (whose sexy voice I could listen to all day). She is the author of Jean-Pierre Melville: An American in Paris. It runs just over 30 minutes dissecting 3 key scenes of the film (The Opening, Therese's Punishment and The Shootout). The 13 minute Volker Schlöndorff, who began his film career as assistant director to Melville, interview is repeated. he talks about his memories of the shoot and the sometimes irascible but always fascinating Melville. A second interview is included - Bertrand Tavernier, who served as publicity agent, on the film gives us 15 minutes discussing Melville as a director, cineophile and complicated individual. Three short archival interviews from French television (two from 1963 and one from 1970) with Melville are included with actors Jean-Paul Belmondo and Serge Reggiani. They total about 15 minutes. We are given and original theatrical trailer (2:17) and 4-pages of liner notes with a new essay by film critic Glenn Kenny.

Easy sneezy - another great package from Criterion. Essential - not only for Melville and noir fans but everyone with the advanced supplements giving invaluable input. Strongly recommended!

***

 

ON THE BFI: There is a bit of softness in the image, but certainly less than one might expect for a 40 year old film. The audio was clear if unpronounced, excellent subtitles and the Extras are excellent and make for a very complete package. BFI has done another competent job in bringing this Melville classic to DVD. Bravo  

Gary W. Tooze

DVD Menus

(BFI - Region 2 - PAL LEFT vs. Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC RIGHT)

 
 
 

 


Subtitle Sample

 

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Screen Captures

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(BFI - Region 2 - PAL TOP vs. Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC BOTTOM)

 

 


(BFI - Region 2 - PAL TOP vs. Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC BOTTOM)

 


(BFI - Region 2 - PAL TOP vs. Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC BOTTOM)
 

 


(BFI - Region 2 - PAL TOP vs. Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC BOTTOM)
 

 


(BFI - Region 2 - PAL TOP vs. Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC BOTTOM)
 

 

Two more from the Criterion

 

 


DVD Box Cover

 

DistributionBFI - Region 2 - PALCriterion Collection Spine #447 - Region 1 - NTSC


 

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