Le Doulos

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
For the 1955 film "Finger Man", see Finger Man.
Le Doulos
Directed by Jean-Pierre Melville
Produced by Carlo Ponti
Georges de Beauregard
Written by Pierre Lesou novel (credited)
Jean-Pierre Melville
Starring Jean-Paul Belmondo
Serge Reggiani
Music by Jacques Loussier
Paul Misraki
Cinematography Nicolas Hayer
Edited by Monique Bonnot
Distributed by Pathé Contemporary Films
Release dates
Running time
108 min
Country France
Language French
Box office 1,477,619 admissions (France)[1]

Le Doulos (French pronunciation: ​[lə dulos]) is a 1962 French crime film directed by Jean-Pierre Melville. It was released theatrically as The Finger Man in the English-speaking world, but all video and DVD releases have used the French title. Intertitles at the beginning of the film explain that its title refers both to a kind of hat and to the slang term for a police informer.

Le Doulos is based on a novel by Pierre Lesou. While the film comes before what are considered Melville’s masterpieces of the genre, Le Samouraï (1967) and Le Cercle rouge (1970), one can unmistakably observe several of Melville’s trademark techniques in this film.


The narrative unfolds through two characters, Maurice and Silien, and consistently switches back and forth between them, leading the audience to grasp randomly for a distinct main character or hero (despite the fact that both are criminal anti-heroes). Through Maurice and Silien’s actions, the film explores just how deeply qualities such as friendship and loyalty run.

Le Doulos begins by introducing us to Maurice, an ex-con, just released from prison after serving a six-year sentence. He then murders his friend Gilbert, stealing the jewels he had been hiding, that were proceeds from a recent heist. Shortly afterwards, Maurice plans a heist of a rich man’s estate and shares his plan with Silien, who is rumored to be a police informant. Silien is later picked up and questioned by the police. The film unfolds from there, incorporating a number of plot twists revealed through Melville’s traditionally styled hard-boiled dialogue and picturesque visuals.

Silien is believed for the large portion of the film to be the man who told the police his friend Morice killed and robbed, landing Morice in jail. Morice's act of revenge is a hitman waiting at Silien's home in the country. Before the hitman kills Silien, Morice emerges telling the hitman that the hit is off, too late and Morice is mistakenly shot dead as Silien. Silien comes across Morice's body which tells him about the blinds; Silien shoots the hitman, whom plays dead long enough to fatally shoot Silien in the back. Silien grooms himself in a mirror before falling to his wounds. The friendship of the two main characters was brought on by doubt. A particular jealous nightclub owner received death when Silien put his hood out to avenge the arrest of Morice. The nightclub owner's girlfriend becomes Silien's and her testimony on paper takes Morice out of prison. Morice made a deal with a gangster in prison to kill Silien, then believing he was the rat.

Principal cast[edit]

Role Actor
Silien Jean-Paul Belmondo
Maurice Faugel Serge Reggiani
Rémy Philippe Nahon
Thérese Monique Hennessy
Superintendent Clain Jean Desailly
Gilbert Varnove René Lefèvre
Jean Phillipe March
Nuttheccio Michel Piccoli


Le Doulos ranks at number 472 in Empire magazine's 2008 list of the 500 greatest movies of all time.[2]

The 1964 review in the New York Times is very critical. It calls the movie tiresome and excessively talkative, feels it's cluttered with confusing references to irrelevant events, and considers the movie pseudointellectual and superficial:

[T]here's not much to recommend the picture, which is one of those feeble attempts to be philosophical and mordant about crime as a chosen career. Jean-Pierre Melville, who wrote and directed it, has so many scenes of mere conversation running through it—so many scenes in which plot is played in talk—that one wonders why his people need firearms. They can talk one another to death.[3]


By way of tribute to the tradition of the French "policier" in general, and Melville specifically, in his 2004 film 36 Quai des Orfèvres, Olivier Marchal uses the name Silien for his police informant. (source 36: Film Notes by Miles Fielder)

American filmmaker Quentin Tarantino cited the screenplay for Le Doulos as being his personal favorite and being a large influence on his debut picture Reservoir Dogs[4]


Further reading[edit]

  • Nogueira, Rui (ed.). 1971. Melville on Melville. New York: Viking Press.
  • Vincendeau, Ginette. 2003. Jean-Pierre Melville : 'an American in Paris'. London: British Film Institute. (ISBN 0851709508 (hardbound), ISBN 0-85170-949-4 (paperback))

External links[edit]