25 January 2011

Taking a Gamble on Bob

Bob is a gambler. In fact, he's the eponymous gambler (and the eponymous Bob) in Melville's Bob le flambeur. Along with the gambling (particularly his nightly draw of the one-armed bandit in his flat), Bob occupies his days with a variety of criminal activities; he's totally the Danny Ocean of 1950s Montmartre. Oh, and he's also the benefactor of gamine young girls who can't afford a place to stay. Fed up with the small time, he and his pals plot to steal 800 million francs from the Deauville Casino on the morning of the Grand Prix. Everything is going perfectly until Bob forgets his promise that he won't gamble while they're on the job...

This film wouldn't normally have got me down to the South Bank at 8.30 on a Tuesday and it was definitely losing me in the last half hour (not helped by the fact that the projector failed for a couple of minutes at the start of the dénouement) but the ending--particularly the closing lines--made it worthwhile, even though I think they could have got to the same point in a more interesting or more efficient way.

The film was shown as part of BFI's Screen Epiphanies series--a regular event for BFI members where a celebrity will pick a film that is important to them and they will then introduce it at a screening of the film at the BFI. I really enjoyed David Morrissey's Epiphany on Kes last year and figured that even if I didn't know jack about Bob, I might enjoy hearing Jonathan Ross talking about it (and film in general). Ross is, of course, always good value for money (especially when the ticket is free). Ross discovered Bob a few years ago, he said, and has since introduced it to a number of people including Stephen Spielberg and Richard Attenborough. In fact, when Ross was rewatching the film to prepare for the event, he found a sweet note to him from Attenborough slipped inside the DVD case, which he read out to us.

A blurry and distant Jonathan Ross
Jonathan Ross could probably have talked for hours and I would have been happy to listen for longer than the allotted 30 minutes but time was tight and only three audience questions were taken (to be fair, the host didn't manage to get many in either), one of which was wasted by someone who worked for Green & Blacks (who, thanks to Amex's sponsorship, had provided free chocolate) who asked whether Ross would like some chocolate and then proceeded to run up onto the stage. Yeah, thanks. Ross also mentioned that he doesn't have a favourite film (he likes almost everything) but that he does like crime thrillers, although not the ones that are really long because they're usually shit anyway. He was briefly stumped when the host asked what inspired him apart from film; eventually, he came up with "books," "comic books," "French comic books" and "walking in the rain."

Maybe it was because Ross was there but there was a rowdier crowd than usual tonight at the BFI. People started whooping when Amex were thanked and were heckling Ross throughout his piece; they also heckled the poor projectionist when the screen/projector/movie conked out. Anyway, it was a good evening's entertainment, although with hindsight, I would have napped through the middle 30 minutes of the movie.

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