Le Cercle Rouge

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"The Red Circle" redirects here. For the Sherlock Holmes story, see The Adventure of the Red Circle. For the 1915 film serial, see The Red Circle (serial).
Le Cercle Rouge
Directed by Jean-Pierre Melville
Produced by Robert Dorfmann
Written by Jean-Pierre Melville
Starring Alain Delon
Yves Montand
Gian Maria Volontè
Music by Éric Demarsan
Cinematography Henri Decaë
Edited by Marie-Sophie Dubus
Distributed by Rialto Pictures
The Criterion Collection (home video)
Release dates
20 October 1970 (France)
April 20, 1993 (USA)
Running time
140 min.
Country France
Language French
Box office 4,339,821 admissions (France)[1]

Le Cercle Rouge (French pronunciation: ​[lə sɛʁkl ʁuʒ], The Red Circle) is a 1970 French-Italian crime film set in Paris, France. It was directed by Jean-Pierre Melville and stars Alain Delon, Andre Bourvil, Gian Maria Volontè and Yves Montand. It is known for its climactic heist sequence which is about half an hour in length and without any dialogue.

The film's title means "The Red Circle" and refers to the film's epigraph which translates as

Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha, drew a circle with a piece of red chalk and said: "When men, even unknowingly, are to meet one day, whatever may befall each, whatever the diverging paths, on the said day, they will inevitably come together in the red circle."

In fact, the Buddha said no such thing; Melville made it up[2] just as he did with the epigraph in Le Samouraï.



Vincent Canby, in a 1993 review of a 99-minute version dubbed into English, said the film "may baffle anyone coming upon him for the first time"; according to Canby:[3]

Though severely cut, The Red Circle doesn't exactly sweep along. It has a deliberate pace as Melville sets up the story of three chance acquaintances who plan and carry out the sacking of an elegant, supposedly impregnable jewelry store...Understatement is the method of the film, from Melville's pared-down screenplay to the performances by the three trenchcoated principals, even to the muted photography by Henri Decaë, which is in color but has the chilly effect of black and white.

Peter Bradshaw, in a 2003 review of a 102-minute reissue, called the film a "treat" and noted "Melville blends the Chandleresque world of his own devising with gritty French reality. With its taut silent robbery sequence, his movie gestures backwards to Rififi, and with Montand's specially modified bullets it anticipates Frederick Forsyth's Day of the Jackal and the contemporary techno-thriller."[4]

Hong Kong director John Woo wrote an essay for the Criterion DVD of Le Cercle Rouge arguing the film's merits.[5] When the film was given a theatrical re-release, Woo was given a "presenter" credit.


  1. ^ Box office information for film at Box Office Story
  2. ^ Johnston, Ian (February 2004). "The Cercle Rouge". The Film Journal. Retrieved 2009-06-18. 
  3. ^ Canby, Vincent (September 22, 1993). "Noir by the Father of the New Wave". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-05-06. 
  4. ^ Bradshaw, Peter (July 4, 2003). "Le Cercle Rouge". The Guardian. Retrieved 2011-05-06. 
  5. ^ Le cercle rouge (1970) - The Criterion Collection

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