REVIEWED BY: The Naked Kiss Posted on 21/09/2007
Jef Costello is a contract killer, a lone wolf living in Paris in 1967. He is vocally inert and a modern day samurai who emulates the intensity and devotion of an old school samurai. Costello finds himself arrested for a murder that he is guilty of. He is taken to a line-up and identified by a select few who saw him leave the scene of the crime. Amazingly he gets away with it, this might be the only niggling flaw in the movie, I felt it lacked verisimilitude, but only this...the rest of the film is simply brilliant. Alas, he is a free man. The rest of the film focuses on the police trying to bring him down, to crack his alibis and to catch him in the act. The final scene I can not comment on without spoiling. Melville certainly delivers on his statement that he likes to leave the audience confused. However you interpret the ending is the true meaning to you. It may frustrate some, but personally I think it is the most well executed ending I have seen in a long time.
Le Samourai does fall in to the French nouveau vague wave of cinema, but the film is a lot less subtle than other films of this genre such as The 400 Blows or Weekend. It is a very minimalistic film, but certain scenes such as the chase scene in the Metro or the scenes in the Police station offer so much tension and brilliant camera work that the movie is beyond mesmerizing.Jef Costello (Alain Delon) is an amazing character, he is obviously a bit of an exitentialist and there are certainly elements of this philosophy throughout the film.
Le Samourai radiates that dark brooding look that only European movies seem to portray well. The simplistic yet striking sets make streets and the most mundane objects look like works of art. The audacious use of pop culture in the form of art and artifacts adds to the overall tone of the film. The mash up of elements, the sassy colors of the 60s, the sophisticated noir qualities and the undercurrent of Japanese cinema makes this film so remarkable. It sounds as if it would clash violently, and it does, but it works.
I felt very detached watching this movie, free to interpret it how I wanted. There is little dialogue which I would like to see more in movies as it is so suggestive. This film caters to those who do not like condescending films that spell out what is going on. This film is simply epic.
Further more, Criterion really know who to spoil connoisseurs of film. I recommend you invest in buying the criterion collection edition of Le Samourai. It comes with a 29 page booklet including excerpts from Melville on Melville and essays by David Thomson and filmmaker John Woo.
DIRECTOR(S): Jean-Pierre Melville | COUNTRY: France | YEAR 1967 | DISTRIBUTOR(S): Criterion Collection | RUNNING TIME: 105 minutes | ASPECT RATIO: 1.85:1 | REGION: 1 | DISCS: 1
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