CC Cinema: The Cars of Le Cercle Rouge–Americans in Paris (and Marseilles)


As I write this, my school has called the second “cold day” in a week, with wind chills dipping down into the 30 below region.  Sure, you can argue that people were tougher in the old days, but lawyers are tougher today.  But I digress.  On Monday, I passed the hours watching Antonioni’s La Notte and Melville’s Le Cercle Rouge.  The first is an existential mood piece, the second an old fashioned crime drama that seems to prove the old maxim: cool French criminals prefer American cars.  ***These still images are courtesy of***

Le Cercle Rouge is your standard suspenseful crime film which, like most foreign crime films, doesn’t end too well for anybody in the cast, which includes such historic French cool guys as Alain Delon, Yves Montand, and the bad guy from A Fistful of Dollars.  In general, the message of the film is that there is more honor amongst thieves than there is amongst law enforcers, but no matter.  These dudes buy American.


Delon’s protagonist, Corey, enters a Marseilles dealership to buy this used ’66 Fury III that he drives throughout the film.  Its non-matching tires are referenced by police investigators, and they also mention that it’s a ’66 or ’67 “Ford, Chevrolet, or Plymouth” by the tire tracks it leaves.


Here’s Corey walking away from the Fury for the final showdown of the film.  Yves Montand waits in the passenger seat.


In this scene, some thugs in a ’65 Impala force Delon’s character into the woods, but little do they know that the bad guy from A Fistful of Dollars is just waiting in the trunk to whack them. 


Montand’s character, Jansen, is an alcoholic ex-police sharpshooter who drives a ’68 Mercury station wagon.  In this scene, he’s about to knock the old rust off, because Corey requires his marksmanship for a heist, but not for the reason one might expect.  In an early scene, Jansen’s character suffers from a vivid hallucination that single-handedly and unsettlingly makes the movie worth watching.


Even the director’s personal car is in on the fun.  The Mustang fastback featured in the police roadblock above belonged to Jean Pierre Melville.  It looks like a ’66, but is sporting wheelcovers from a later Mustang, amber foglights, and fender mounted mirrors much like those on the Mustang II showcar (here).  Between this film and Lelouch’s A Man and a Woman, I’m getting the impression that Frenchmen of the ’60s preferred first-generation Mustangs.


Unless, of course, they drove Firebirds.  This ’69 Firebird 400 is parked by a curb as a heist scene begins.  As with many old foreign films, there is a cornucopia of antique iron to enjoy, and the movies usually are worth watching, too.  If you have cabin fever, firing up Hulu Plus might be worth your time.