Jean-Pierre Melville is one of the most peculiar figures in French cinema. A devotee of American films, and possibly one of the top scholars on Hollywood movies of the '30s-'50s, Melville was highly influenced by their techniques and "language"--most particularly the style of film noir.
His masterpieces are probably "Le Deuxieme Souffle" (1966) and "Le Samourai" (1967)--but "Doulos, the Finger Man" (1962), which plays Thursday on the Nuart's French and Japanese New Wave series, is one of his most characteristic: a nocturnal melodrama with Jean-Paul Belmondo, in his "Breathless"-era prime, as a quick-witted stool pigeon.
Despite his attachment to American films, Melville disagreed absolutely with the ranking of American directors established mostly by the Cinematheque's Henri Langlois and the young critics of Cahiers du Cinema.
Rather than placing Hitchcock, Hawks and Chaplin at the top, Melville's own nominees for the greatest Hollywood film makers--according to his one-time assistant, director Volker Schlondorff--were William Wyler, Robert Wise and John Huston. And his favorite films included two "heist" thrillers: Wise's "Odds Against Tomorrow" and Huston's "The Asphalt Jungle."