Photo of Jean-Pierre Melville Jean-Pierre Melville

Born Jean-Pierre Grumbach in Paris on Oct. 20, 1917, director Jean-Pierre Melville was a fan of all things American: He adopted the name Melville as a tribute to his favorite author; he drank Coca-Cola and wore a Stetson; and he made films that blended the American ethos of directors such as John Ford with a postwar sensibility formed by his experiences with the French Resistance.

Melville began making 16mm films as a teenager and formed his own production company shortly after World War II. His first feature film, Le Silence de la Mer (1949), created a stir through its claustrophobic look, location-shot scenes and use of untrained actors.

In the years that followed, Melville would become a major influence on the French new wave through minimalist crime dramas such as Bob le Flambeur and Le Samourai that featured charismatic male leads, including Alain Delon and Jean-Paul Belmondo.

Jean-Pierre Melville in Breathless


1960 NR

After shooting a cop, young thief Michel meets and shacks up with American girl Patricia. Hiding out in her hotel room, Michel tries to talk Patricia into going with him to Italy, but she doesn't know that would include a foray into criminal life.

  • Jean-Pierre Melville in Le Samourai Le Samourai
  • Jean-Pierre Melville in Le Cercle Rouge Le Cercle Rouge
  • Jean-Pierre Melville in Two Men in Manhattan Two Men in Manhattan
  • Jean-Pierre Melville in Army of Shadows Army of Shadows
  • Jean-Pierre Melville in Bob Le Flambeur Bob Le Flambeur
  • Jean-Pierre Melville in Le Deuxième Souffle Le Deuxième Souffle
  • Jean-Pierre Melville in Les Enfants Terribles Les Enfants Terribles
  • Jean-Pierre Melville in Léon Morin, Priest Léon Morin, Priest
  • Jean-Pierre Melville in Dirty Money Dirty Money