Le Doulos

Watch Le Doulos

"Raw! Shocking! Savage!"
  • NR
  • 1963
  • 1 hr 48 min
  • 7.7  (11,824)

In Jean-Pierre Melville's 1962 film Le Doulos, the story follows Maurice Faugel (Serge Reggiani), a recently released thief, as he returns to his criminal ways. Faugel has just finished serving a seven-year prison sentence for a jewelry heist gone wrong, and he is ready to start over with a new plan to rob a wealthy business owner. However, when things eventually go awry again, the film then shifts to the journey of two detectives, one of whom is Faugel's friend, Silien (Jean-Paul Belmondo), as they investigate the latest heist scene.

The film's opening scene sets the film's tone, and Melville's affinity for the American film noir genre, as Faugel infamously walks down a damply-lit street in a fedora and trench coat, moving like an elusive phantom. The camera follows him closely throughout the entire sequence, as if the audience itself is invisible, watching Faugel's every move. In this way, Melville's gaze is observant and curious, and the film closely examines the workings of the French underworld.

Le Doulos, the title of the film, refers to an informant, someone who turns on his comrades. The film opens with one such betrayal, and the vast network of interconnected players in the criminal world is frequently seen playing double-crossing games. This constantly keeps the audience guessing about who is trustworthy and who isn't. It inculcates a strong sense of paranoia into the atmosphere, making each interaction and dialogue more tense and dramatic. As the story unfolds, characters are frequently seen meeting in a dimly-lit room or on a deserted street corner, speaking in low voices and with furtive glances.

During the film, the dialogues are often cryptic and stilted, with many conversations filled with long pauses and understated reactions. The film relies heavily on visuals to convey important information, often communicating details through close-ups and subtle cues. For instance, a close-up of a pack of cigarettes identifies them as Faugel's brand, indicating he has been in a space earlier. Le Doulos vividly exhibits the director Melville's predilection for understated, dense storytelling in French cinema. It often demonstrates what isn't being said is as significant as what is being said.

The most captivating aspect of the movie is the attention it gives to the character's physicality. When the lead actress, Thérèse (Monique Hennessy), walks into the scene, the camera lingers on her backside and her entrance, showing her as an object of desire while also showing her as more than just a sexual object. Her movements are carefully choreographed, reminding the audience she is a vital part of the crime world despite her position as a woman in a male-dominated society. The men too have a strong, physically dominant presence. Faugel, for instance, is shown to be beefy and broad, giving the impression that he is a force to be reckoned with, and his walk is imposing, commanding attention even when the camera isn't focused on him.

The film is known for its impeccably executed set design, in which each interior is modern, asymmetrical, and full of beautifully minimalist curves. Architectural features are given great importance, and each space reflects the personalities of the characters who inhabit them, lending to the ambiance of the murky world depicted in the movie. The film's black-and-white palette further reinforces the sense of doom looming over the characters, and the extensive use of lighting directs the audience's focus, highlighting certain details under the shadows.

Le Doulos is a movie that revolves around the oppression and injustice of a corrupt society. The central characters are propelled by their motivations to seek their place in this violent, unstable environment. The movie's ensemble cast, including distinguished performers such as Jean-Paul Belmondo, Jean Desailly, and Serge Reggiani, deliver powerful performances in a tale that is both entrancing and thought-provoking. Melville expertly creates a film chock full of sensuality and violence, that drips with tension and a dark sense of humor. It is a true French classic.

Le Doulos is a 1963 drama with a runtime of 1 hour and 48 minutes. It has received mostly positive reviews from critics and viewers, who have given it an IMDb score of 7.7.

Le Doulos
Where to Watch Le Doulos
Le Doulos is available to watch free on Kanopy. It's also available to stream, download and buy on demand at Apple TV. Some platforms allow you to rent Le Doulos for a limited time or purchase the movie and download it to your device.
  • Release Date
  • MPAA Rating
  • Runtime
    1 hr 48 min
  • Language
  • IMDB Rating
    7.7  (11,824)