Borsalino (1970) [Arrow Limited Edition Rerelease] 

Marseilles, 1930, when two crooks meet up, they develop dreams of gangster grandeur.  

This early gangster film came 3 years before The Sting and 2 years before The Godfather, working its way into a sub-genre that was not all that well-known yet while still being a part of the French new Wave. Written by Jean-Claude Carriere, Jean Cau, and Jacques Deray (from a book by Eugène Saccomano, and assistance from Claude Sautet), with Deray directing, this film is what one would think of as “typically French” in its execution with a touch of extra violence. The story gets going quickly here, but it takes more than its time developing. At just over 2 hours, the runtime does feel a bit long here and there, but there is something here worth sticking around for. The film is based on two real life French gangsters, Paul Carbone and François Spirito, who actor Alain Delon had read about and wanted to bring to the screen along with Jean-Paul Belmondo, to give the two of them a chance at working together. The story here is something we are more used to seeing these days, but back in 1970, there were quite a few less films of its ilk. That being said, the writing a good, the directing is solid, both have a few dated ideas here and there, but that is to be expected. The main hurdle for most viewers will be sticking with the film for its 2 hours and 5 minutes runtime as some parts do feel a bit overly long. Getting through these parts, viewers are rewarded with some typical, yet well done, gangster on gangster violence. This is a dated film, but that is a major part of its charm.  

The cast here is the top main reason to see this film and to own it. The two leads are Alain Delon and Jean-Paul Belmondo, basically French cinema royalty, who had worked on the same films before, but not to this extent. Their performances here are solid, giving French Stars all the way while also giving something to the characters so that they are more than just Delon and Belmondo in costumes. The rest of the cast is also good here, some of the performances will feel a bit off these days but given the time period the film was made in, the time period the film takes place in, and how things were done back in those days, the performances are great.  

Also solid is the look of the film with cinematography by Jean-Jacques Tarbès allows the film to just be. The story gets a chance to be seen, the characters are well framed, well filmed, given the space they need to exist in this world created by Tarbès’ work. The film looks fantastic on this rerelease as well, the 1080p presentation is solid and makes great use of the available material for the film. The film’s look now easily allows for the period recreation to shine through the décor, costumes, props, and everything else. This is one of those films where the period piece aspect is so solid, it deserves its own time to shine, its own scenes to just be seen.  

In terms of the new release here, as mentioned, the 1080p presentation looks great, the sound is left as its original sound, so it’s in mono which some will not love, but it’s fitting here with the era and everything else going on. The extras on the Arrow disc are, as usual, solid. Of course, there’s the typical image gallery and trailer, which are a given at this point in time, but the disc also included new commentary by Josh Nelson, a new interview about the score, and one about the costume design. While some of these will be of limited interest, they are quite well done. The documentary Le Magnifique Belmondo is a standout extra here, especially for French film fans. The packaging itself is well done with a reversible sleeve (which has become a habit for Arrow) and a double-sided poster, all by artist Tony Stella. In terms of options, the film has French and English audio available with optional English sub-titles which French speakers will want to turn off as they are unfortunately just a little bit just a few too many times.  

Overall, this new release of Borsalino is a solid one worth picking up, especially considering how difficult this film can be to come by at times. It’s a very good gangster film with strong lead performances, a great attention to detail when it comes to recreating the 1930s, fantastic wardrobe, and all around a great example of the French New Wave.