Deux Hommes dans Manhattan (Jean-Pierre Melville / France, 1959):

Jean-Pierre Melville in New York City like Hemingway in Paris, the dreaming visitorís besotted serenity. It begins in the galaxy of phosphorescence and hot jazz that is Times Square at night, then a brief Keatsian note, an ode to the gaslight post in front of the United Nations edifice. A missing Gallic delegate is the linchpin of the drama, a diplomatic matter or perhaps a scandalous affair. The tenacious newshound (Melville) is on the case, by his side is the mercenary shutterbug (Pierre Grasset): "With a drink or a camera in hand, I feel like a man. Take them away, and itís only me." The tour of the city is a tour of mistresses, each more strikingly doleful than the last. Behind the scenes at the Mercury Theater sits the suicidal actress (Ginger Hall) costumed like Olivia de Havilland in Wylerís The Heiress, the Brooklyn burlesque hall has the sulky dancer (Michelle Bailly) in top hat and cane. The blonde (Monique Hennessy) at the lavish multiracial bordello illustrates the reporterís dictum ("You can judge a civilization by its level of prostitution"), though not before a Glenda Leigh performance and a rapt tracking shot through a Capitol Records studio. "American women are very direct!" Matťís D.O.A. governs the filming, a captivating mix of grainy snapshots of subways and diners plus fastidious French interiors, the mental topography of Melvilleís owlish deadpan. The mystery segues into a dilemma, the dead politician sprawled in his loverís apartment was once a Resistance hero and is now paparazzi catnip. Dawn brings the wry punchline, the "out of focus" cynic who finds himself through a private gesture and a chuckle. Fuller in Los Angeles is simultaneous with The Crimson Kimono, La Nouvelle Vague certainly took note. Cinematography by Nicolas Hayer. With Christiane Eudes, Colette Fleury, Jean Darcante, and Paula Dehelly. In black and white.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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