The Good Thief vs Bob le Flambeur

You know it’s bad when a DVD starts skipping and it’s a relief to be let off watching the rest of the film. That was my experience with Bob le Flambeur, the 50’s French film remade as The Good Thief in 2002. I like black and white*, I don’t mind subtitles, and I really like films about gambling, heists, and noir – but as my roommate says, “They (French New Wave) can make anything boring.” I don’t even think seeing it in a theater would help this film. The acting is forced, the editing clumsy, the camerawork pedestrian. While some of those flaws are conceits French New Wave would go on to explore, I just don’t think they work here.

Conversely, The Good Theif, the remake with Nick Nolte, has always stood out in my mind as a great film. I’ve seen it twice (in the theater and on video), and while both were years ago, I still think of the film fondly and plan to watch it again soon. Nick Nolte reminds you why you like three-time-losers; the whole film simmers with desperation that becomes it’s own pleasing immersive aesthetic. Being an addictive personality (although I’ve managed to avoid drugs and booze), I enjoy seeing one played onscreen with such accuracy, and in a way that teases out qualities that get you rooting for good old Bob.

*I recently saw The 400 Blows, and kept wondering why it didn’t strike me as deeply as everyone else I’ve heard talk about it. Then I imagined it projected on the big screen, and could see what a sensual pleasure it would be. There something about black and white film that DVD can’t capture which makes some films a treat. Relish your repertory theaters – and support your local ones.


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