Itinéraire de… #03: Le Cercle rouge (2017)

The video above is a subtitled version of my audio essay Itinéraire de… #3: Le Cercle Rouge. This piece was published in [in]Transition, vol. 6, no. 2 (2019), special issue on audiographic criticism. The original publication including full creator’s statement is available here. Included below is the part from the statement that explains my choice of the film, why I chose to work with it in the way I did in this piece and a few words about the piece’s structure:

“Apart from being one of my favourite Melville films it has often occurred to me how different a rhythmic dynamic Le cercle rouge’s trailer suggests in comparison to the film itself. While the film builds its suspense with a slow jazzy and cool pace the trailer is, in some parts, loud and characterised by an interesting use of different playback speeds. In particular, the trailer’s beginning manipulates drumming and shooting sounds, contrasting their playback in slow motion and standard speed. Indeed, as the reviewer points out, this can be seen as a conventional form of repackaging. Yet, for me, these different sound expressions felt like an invitation to play with and appropriate samples from the film and its trailer. Intrigued by the trailer’s dramatic effect and tension, I wanted to take its use of sound further by manipulating the playback speed of sounds and dialogue from the film, as a way to reframe the feverish chase on the main character Corey (Alain Delon). By contrasting slowed down sounds and standard speed as in the trailer my aim was to make a work which highlights the underlying deceptive and ominous nature of the situations which Corey goes through and the promises being made to him. To achieve this, the piece plays with repetition of dialogue snippets and sounds at different speeds, mixed with sounds from different locations – the train, the woods, the police station, the pool hall and the nightclub – layered onto a loop of the trailer’s slow-motion drumming. With my selection and combination of dialogue samples, I have wished to offer the listener cues about the film’s overall plot lines in a somewhat elliptical manner, while conveying the plot’s unfolding. Some samples are arranged in chronological order, others are repeated so as to establish and play with recurrent motifs as a way to underline the turn of events and changing relations between characters.

The piece is roughly divided into three parts. The piece’s introductory part, running from the beginning until approximately one minute and twenty seconds, contains snippets from the police directors’ discussion on the urgency of finding Vogel and stages Inspector Mattei as the main investigator. The section is framed by Corey’s remark about the dangers of entering the Red Circle, at the beginning and the end, to give a cue about the plans he is making and the dangers he is facing. The middle part – which runs approximately from one minute and twenty seconds to two minutes and fifty-six seconds – follows respectively Mattei’s, Vogel’s and Corey’s trajectories, focussing mostly on the latter. As Mattei tries to chase down Vogel in the jazz club and other places, Corey flees to Paris with Vogel, seeks out old acquaintances, settles scores and sets up a heist. The final part begins at three minutes and twelve seconds, marked by the overlapping voices of the police directors at different speeds. My intention with this variation on the introduction’s opening, was to (hopefully) give it a dreamlike, surreal feel, and to signal that Corey is about to be caught in Mattei’s web. To clarify the lexical meaning of the samples, I have created an outline containing time codes and translations of the dialogue samples, which are visible to the left beneath the embeded audio player. The outline is partly based on the subtitles for the film I had available and my own translation.”

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