We enjoyed The Good Thief, starring Nick Nolte and directed by Neil Jordan, when we saw it on DVD a week or so ago, so I advanced Bob le Flambeur, written and directed by Jean-Paul Melville, in our Netflix queue, thinking it had to be even better.
Wrong. Strange to say, but we liked the remake a lot more. Maybe we're just not cut out for French noir; we've seen Meville's Le Doulos and (more recently) Le Samurai, and both left us feeling a bit less than satisfied. On the other hand, we loved Classe Tous Risques, directed by Claude Sautet, and starring Lino Ventura. Can you not love anything with Lino Ventura?
What was wrong with Bob Le Flambeur? Come to think of it, what's wrong with Le Doulos and Le Samurai? Quite frankly, nobody to like. Or like enough. In Le Doulos, I remember having trouble feeling sympathetic to anyone. In Le Samurai, I thought Alain Delon was a knockout, but didn't much care what happened to him. In Bob Le Flambeur, I get that everybody in the movie likes Bob--he has a kind of honor, a history, a code. But he does enough unlikable things--hitting a girl, for one--that he loses any emotional hook in me. And none of the other characters come close.
In The Good Thief, many of the characters are likable, even when they're jerks. This helps pull you through the slow parts of the movie. Sometimes you're not sure what's going on, but your liking for the characters makes you give the movie some slack.
Bob Le Flambeur doesn't have much slack--it's very tightly assembled. Perhaps too tightly--it's a bit hermetic. There's no space for the viewer.
Still, plenty of gorgeous shots of Paris. Someday I'll go back...