Auguste le Breton Retrospective

Posted by to The Blog on May 2nd

The Institut Français presents an exclusive Tuesday night-season of French film noir screenings to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the birth of legendary crime author Auguste Le Breton. 

With more than 80 novels, Auguste Le Breton (born Auguste Monfort) established himself as an emblematic author of crime fiction with a special insight into the world of French criminal underworld. Close to the Parisian mob in his youth, Le Breton frequented the bars, gambling dens and gangs of Montmartre and gathered real life experiences which he nourished his novels with.

Master of French slang, he is best known for having introduced argot and verlan in literature and for the screen adaptations of many of his novels that instantly became noir classics in the 1950s and 60s. Closely involved in these film adaptations, Le Breton wrote film dialogues (Rififi, Chnouf) and scripts, including the one of Bob the Gambler.

This retrospective will get off to a great start on May 14th with Rififi (1955), the first among the series of ‘Rififi’ novels adapted for the big screen (Rififi means fight or bust-up). In this jewel-thief caper, an aging-thief, Tony Le Stephanois (Jean Servais) agrees to attempt one last job and bands together with three collaborators to commit a seemingly impossible robbery. The film ending is magnificent with a suspenseful and almost silent half-hour sequence that depicts the heist in details. For his second European movie, Jules Dassin won the Best Director Award at the 1955 Cannes Festival.

The screening of Rififi will be followed by a discussion chaired by Martine Pierquin, of the University of Edinburgh, with Pierre Fourniaud, General Director of the French publishing house La Manufacture de Livres specialising in gangsters’ biographies and crime novels. In 2010 he published a new edition of Le Breton’s Les Pégriots, which tells the true story of Jo la terreur – one of the last ‘knights’ of the early 20th century Parisian mob. Les Pégriots will soon be adapted by actor and film director Olivier Marchal (‘36’, ‘MR73’, ‘Braquo’…) who bought the film rights.

In Chnouf (1955), screened on Tuesday 21 May, Henri Decoin drags us into the crepuscular world of drugs. Jean Gabin plays Henri Ferré, called “Le Nantais”, the head of an international narcotic ring who is assigned to oversee the European branch of his operation. The casting of notable actors includes Marcel Dalio and Magal Noël, and the inimitable Lino Ventura.

Source of inspiration of the French New Wave filmmakers during the 1950s, Jean-Pierre Melville’s film Bob the Gambler (1956) tells the story of a reformed bank robber on a losing streak, Bob Montagne (Roger Duchesne), who plots the heist of the Deauville Casino as his last score. This job will require major financial backing and a gang big enough to occupy all Brittany…

Closing this retrospective on 4 June is The Sicilian Clan (1969), one of the biggest box-office successes in France. Henri Verneuil’s popular crime movie stars three giants of French cinema, Alain Delon as a tough criminal, Jean Gabin as the patriarch of a Sicilian clan and Lino Ventura as a dogged inspector. For this film, the talented composer Ennio Morricone created one of his memorable and unsettling film score.


Auguste le Breton Retrospective

From 14 May to 4 June 2013

Institut français d’Ecosse

All screenings are in French with English subtitles.  

Tickets: £5 (includes a drink)

Early booking is recommended. Box Office: 0131 225 53 66

Sponsored by Innis & Gunn


RIFIFI (Du rififi chez les hommes)

A film by Jules Dassin. Rated 12.

Based on Auguste Le Breton’s novel.

1955, 118 mins. Rated 12. With Jean Servais, Carl Mohner, Robert Manuel…

Tuesday 14 may, 6.00pm. Followed by a Q&A with Pierre Fourniaud and Martine Pierquin.


CHNOUF (Razzia sur la chnouf)

A film by Henri Decoin.

Based on Auguste Le Breton’s novel

1955, 110 mins. With Jean Gabin, Lino Ventura, Magali Noël, Paul Frankeur, Marcel Dalio…

Tuesday 21 May, 6.00pm


BOB THE GAMBLER (Bob le flambeur)

A film by Jean-Pierre Melville. PG.

Film script by Jean-Pierre Melville and Auguste Le Breton

1956, 98 mins. With: Isabelle Corey, Daniel Cauchy, Roger Duchesne, Guy Decomble…

Tuesday 28 May, 6.00pm.


THE SICILIAN CLAN (Le Clan des Siciliens)

A film by Henri Verneuil.

Film script based on Auguste Le Breton’s novel

1969, 113 mins. With Jean Gabin, Alain Delon, Lino Ventura, Irina Demick, Amedeo Nazzari…

Tuesday 4 June, 6.00pm.




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