Directed and written by master auteur Jean-Pierre Melville, Le Doulos is a glorious tribute to classic American crime noir’s of the 1940’s. A shadowy underworld where men wear hats and trench coats like Cagney, brandishing revolvers, drinking bourbon or scotch and driving big American cars. The overall mood is dark and threatening and the black and white photography by Nicholas Hayer builds to a crescendo from the the atmospheric opening sequence to the stunning shot of a man staring into a mirror that closes the film. The jazzy soundtrack by Paul Misraki elevates the cool, noir-ish sensibility of the film.
Jean-Paul Belmondo plays Silien, a man thought by some to be a police informer. (“Doulos” is french for “informer”). Serge Reggiani plays Maurice, who has just gotten out of prison and is getting involved with another robbery attempt. His friend Silien offers to help, and the film revolves around the tension over whether Silien is an informant or not. It’s another exploration by Melville of the grey area between those who enforce the law and those who break it.