The Overlook: No Fear, No Die reimagined film noir for the present

In The Overlook, A.V. Club film critic Ignatiy Vishnevetsky examines the misfits, underappreciated gems, and underseen classics of film history.

Claire Denis’ moody, existentialist sophomore feature No Fear, No Die reimagined film noir for the suburbs of Paris, as the story of two black men who become involved in a cockfighting ring. The setting is Rungis, a tiny borough just outside Orly Airport, known for its wholesale produce market—a low-rent underworld of illegal bets, middle-aged white guys, and nightclubs that look like warehouses from the outside. No Fear, No Die is gritty and loose enough to sometimes pass for documentary, yet it’s put together with a novella’s sense of theme and progression, owing more to Herman Melville—whose Billy Budd, Sailor would later be adapted by Denis as Beau Travail—than to Jean-Pierre Melville, the master of French noir. It deals in toxic struggles within groups …

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