Second Breath | Chicago Reader

Second Breath

150 minutes 1966

A 1966 film by Jean-Pierre Melville, one of the great eccentrics of the French cinema. Melville specialized in severely stylized versions of American gangster films, bringing out their unspoken existentialism through a camera style that sometimes evokes the minimalist purity of Bresson, sometimes the seamless studio realism of William Wyler. Second Breath, one of his few commercial successes, is a painstaking account of an aging gangster (Lino Ventura) who escapes from jail and plans an elaborate armored-car robbery to prove he's still in the game. It isn't an easy film to watch, perhaps because it moves so deliberately in comparison to its American models, but this somber, repressive, and perverse work displays a ferocious moral and formal integrity. In French with subtitles.

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