(The finger man), (The informer), (The stoolie)
Jean-Paul Belmondo, Serge Reggiani, Jean Dessailly, Michel Piccoli,
A Melvillean roundabout of ambiguity and betrayal in the underworld: Serge Reggiani is an ex-con who suspects his friend of being a stool pigeon—un doulos or finger man in French slang—and shoots him. Enter Jean-Paul Belmondo, the finger man; or is he? As in Bob le flambeur and Le Samouraï, the gangsters display an impassive, underplayed demeanor, increasing a sense of equivocation in characters who, as Melville said, “are all double . . . all false.” But as in Army of Shadows, they are all interdependent; no lone samurai need apply, falseness counts, and everyone has a story to recount, at length. All this is played out against a stunningly photographed sub-urban setting of barren expanses, lampposts in the middle of nothingness, a gangster-squatter’s paradise or an existentialist’s dream. (Also, some obvious back projection, perhaps a loving homage to Edgar Ulmer.) Finally, since everyone wears a trench coat at all times, it rains.