20 October 1917
|Died||2 August 1973
While with the French Resistance during World War II, he adopted the nom de guerre Melville as a tribute to his favorite American author, Herman Melville. He kept it as his stage name once the war was over.
Life and career
After the fall of France in 1940 during World War II, Grumbach entered the French Resistance to oppose the German Nazis who occupied the country. He adopted the nom de guerre Melville, after the American author Herman Melville, a favorite of his. Melville fought in Operation Dragoon.
When he returned from the war, he applied for a license to become an assistant director but was refused. Without this support, he decided to direct his films by his own means, and continued to use Melville as his stage name. He became an independent film-maker and owned his own studio.
He became well known for his tragic, minimalist film noir crime dramas, such as Le Doulos (1962), Le Samouraï (1967) and Le Cercle rouge (1970), starring major actors such as Alain Delon (probably the definitive "Melvillian" actor), Jean-Paul Belmondo and Lino Ventura. Influenced by American cinema, especially gangster films of the 1930s and 1940s, he used accessories such as weapons, clothes (trench coats), and fedora hats, to shape a characteristic look in his movies.
Melville ultimately became so identified with the style that the New Yorker's Anthony Lane could write the following about a 2017 retrospective of his films: "This is how you should attend the forthcoming retrospective of Jean-Pierre Melville movies at Film Forum: Tell nobody what you are doing. Even your loved ones—especially your loved ones—must be kept in the dark. If it comes to a choice between smoking and talking, smoke. Dress well but without ostentation. Wear a raincoat, buttoned and belted, regardless of whether there is rain. Any revolver should be kept, until you need it, in the pocket of the coat. Finally, before you leave home, put your hat on. If you don’t have a hat, you can’t go."
Melville's independence and "reporting" style of film-making (he was one of the first French directors to use real locations regularly) were a major influence on the French New Wave film movement. Jean-Luc Godard used him as a minor character in his seminal New Wave film Breathless. When Godard was having difficulty editing the film, Melville suggested that he just cut directly to the best parts of a shot. Godard was inspired and the film's innovative use of jump cuts have become part of its fame.
Melville died in Paris in 1973 from a heart attack at the age of 55.
|24 heures de la vie d'un clown||1946||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Short film
|Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne||1948||Yes||Short film, actor|||
|Le Silence de la mer||1949||Yes||Yes||Yes||Film editor|||
|Les Enfants terribles||1950||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Production director, actor|||
|Quatre sans millions!||1951||Yes||Short film, actor|||
|Quand tu liras cette lettre||1953||Yes||Yes||Yes||Adaptation|||
|Bob le flambeur||1956||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Adaptation, voice-over|||
|Amour de poche||1957||Yes||Actor|||
|Two Men in Manhattan||1959||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Adaptation, dialogue, cinematographer, actor ("Moreau")|||
|Léon Morin, Priest||1961||Yes||Yes||Yes||Dialogues|||
|Le Doulos||1963||Yes||Yes||Yes||Adaptation, dialogues|||
|Magnet of Doom||1963||Yes||Yes||Yes||Adaptation, dialogues|||
|Le deuxième souffle||1966||Yes||Yes||Yes||Dialogues|||
|Army of Shadows||1969||Yes||Yes||Yes||Dialogues|||
|Le Cercle rouge||1970||Yes||Yes||Yes||Dialogues|||
Code Name Melville
Produced in 2008, the 76-minute-long feature documentary Code Name Melville (original French title: Sous le nom de Melville) reveals the importance of Jean-Pierre Melville's personal experience in the French Resistance during World War II to his approach to filmmaking.
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- Vincendeau, Ginette (2003). Jean-Pierre Melville An American in Paris. British Film Institute. ISBN 0851709494.
- Breitbart, Eric (2006). "Call Me Melville". New England Review 27:3. pp. 174–183
- Montero, José Francisco, Jean-Pierre Melville. Crónicas de un samurái, Editorial Shangrila, Santander, 2014. http://shangrilaediciones.com/pages/bakery/trayectos-libros-2-116.php
- Ginette Vincendeau Jean-Pierre Melville: An American in Paris, 2003, BFI Publishing, ISBN 0-85170-949-4
- Tim Palmer "An Amateur of Quality: Postwar Cinema and Jean-Pierre Melville's LE SILENCE DE LA MER," Journal of Film and Video, 59:4, Fall 2006, pp. 3–19
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- Tim Palmer "Jean-Pierre Melville and 1970s French Film Style," Studies in French Cinema, 2:3, Spring 2003