TWO MEN IN MANHATTAN (DEUX HOMMES DANS MANHATTAN)
(director/writer-producer: Jean-Pierre Melville; cinematographer: Nicolas Hayer; editor: Monique Bonnot; music: Christian Chevalier/Martial Solal; cast: Jean-Pierre Melville (Moreau), Pierre Grasset (Delmas), Ginger Hall (Judith Nelson), Christiane Eudès (Anne Fèvre-Berthier), Collette Fleury (Françoise Bonnot), Jerry Mengo (Leslie McKimmie ), Glenda Leigh (Virginia Graham), Jean Darcante (Rouvier), Jean Lara (Aubert), Michele Bailly (Bessie Reed), Monique Hennessy (Gloria), Paula Dehelly (Mme. Fèvre-Berthier); Runtime: 85; MPAA Rating: NR; Cohen Film Collection(Gaumont); 1959-France-in French and English, with English subtitles)
“It might be Melville’s weakest film.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
French director Jean-Pierre Melville(“The Silence of the Sea”/”Bob The Gambler”/”The Samurai”) comes to Manhattan to shoot this moralistic noir. It’s shot in a documentary-like style. The theme turns on journalist ethics, but really seems to be made to show-off Manhattan and the Frenchman’s love for America. It might be Melville’s weakest film, as the acting is leaden, the script uninteresting and the NYC touristy location shots of the UN, the crowded subway, Times Square and Rockefeller Center cannot cover up a lame story. To its credit, the black and white photography sparkles as noir, especially in capturing the city’s seedy underbelly side at night.
The pic takes place on one long night during the Christmas season, when Resistance hero French UN delegate Fèvre-Berthier is reported missing and the French Press Agency are alerted. The press boss, Rouvier (Jean Darcante), sends the journalist Moreau (Jean-Pierre Melville) to discretely find out why the womanizing delegate is missing and unaccounted for, hoping to avoid a scandal. Moreau flies immediately to NYC and once there he recruits the dissolute French freelance photographer Delmas (Pierre Grasse), who lives in Manhattan, to help in the investigation. After interviewing three of the delegate’s lovers, the two men in Manhattan learn that he croaked from a heart attack while seated on the sofa in the apartment of the suicidal Broadway actress Judith Nelson (Ginger Hall). The cynical and hard-drinking Delmas sees this as an opportunity to cash in big-time by faking photos of him dying undressed in bed and releasing it to the highest bidding media outlet. Anne (Christiane Eudès), the delegate’s concerned daughter, teams with Moreau, who turns against the sleazy Yelmas, to make sure they recover the photos.
Melville’s lightweight and conventional film leaves us with a moral dilemma: it asks, already knowing the answer, if it’s better sometimes to not tell the truth because telling the truth would cause unnecessary pain to a great but flawed person’s country, his admirers and family.
REVIEWED ON 12/24/2014 GRADE: B-