Le samouraï (1967)

GENRESCrime,Drama,Mystery,Thriller
LANGFrench
ACTOR
Alain DelonFrançois PérierNathalie DelonCathy Rosier
DIRECTOR
Jean-Pierre Melville

SYNOPSICS

Le samouraï (1967) is a French movie. Jean-Pierre Melville has directed this movie. Alain Delon,François Périer,Nathalie Delon,Cathy Rosier are the starring of this movie. It was released in 1967. Le samouraï (1967) is considered one of the best Crime,Drama,Mystery,Thriller movie in India and around the world.

In Paris, Jef Costello is a lonely hit man who works under contract. He is hired to kill the owner of a club and becomes the prime suspect of the murder. However, his perfect alibi drops the accusation against him. His girlfriend Jane, her client and citizen above any suspicion Wiener and Valerie, the pianist of the club and main witness of the crime, provide the necessary evidence of his innocence supporting his alibi. Free, he is betrayed and chased by the gangsters sent by the one who hired him and also by the police, not convinced of his innocence. Jef seeks out who has hired him to revenge.

Le samouraï (1967) Reviews

  • Along with 'The Wizard of Oz', the supreme film about the longing for home.

    the red duchess2000-12-07

    To see how beautiful, moving, exciting and astonishing Melville's 'Le Samourai' is, to recognise it as one of the greatest films ever made, arguably the most perfect, it is necessary to forget everything you've been told about it. If you've been told nothing, than you are very lucky; the first time I saw I knew nothing either, and it was a revelation - I came out of the cinema with huge goggle eyes - cinema can do THAT?! I absorbed every Melville film I could find (they are VERY hard to get), and read every article or book about him. My love grew to uncontrollable passion. But a lot cliches and received truths have grown up around his work, and this sublime miracle especially. The most obvious is the director's obsession with American cinema. That his films are mere tributes to American cinema, or stern deconstructions of them. It is true that Jef Costello wears the classic film noir garb of mac and derby, but so do at least 400 men in Paris. And it is true that Melville rigorously exposes the myth of the gangster, but, most importantly, of masculinity and its power. Elaborate theories of psychoanalysis are usually brought in here, the idea that Jef begins the film 'whole', looking at the mirror; during the course of the narrative he loses this self-sufficient image, cracking up as it fragments, split by mirrors, trapped behind bars (although the halved banknotes he consciously plays with at the beginning might qualify this). Others comment on the film less as a gangster film than a dramatisation of particular philosophies. Some see Jef as an example of existentialist man, a man who does not exist except through his acts - the film patiently records endless scenes of Jef walking, staring, preparing for his jobs etc. His final ritual is a preparation for his death; as existentialism suggests, friends, social purpose etc. fall away, and one is left alone with one's fate. Or as an expression of fatalistic Orientalist ethics (the film IS called 'Le Samourai') concerning solitude and the inevitability of death. Melville himself offered two possible interpretations - as a study in schizophrenia, and as an allegory of Man (Jef) pursued by Destiny (the Inspector) into the arms of Death (Valerie, the pianist). All of these, of course, are valid interpretations. I am more sympathetic to those who see 'Samourai' as a dream, a study in solitude, or a portrait of mental breakdown. The film's action takes place largely at night; there is a frequently oneiric tone to Melville's style, the endless walking, the silence, the deliberate paring down of the mise-en-scene to near-monochrome. Jef's impassivity is comparable to that of a somnambulist, walking mechanically down countless corridors. As in a dream, whole sequences are repeated in exactly the same way. We keep returning to the same few locales. The film opens with Jef lying smoking in bed, in the dark; one powerful scene is Jef waking up after he has bandaged his wounded arm - has he had a nightmare, or is it the sound of a passing truck? 'Samourai' is also much more moving as a story of solitude than Antonioni's entire oeuvre put together. The only sure thing in this strange and enigmatic film is Jef's loneliness, living with his only friend, a caged bullfinch (usually a symbol of female entrapment) in a dismally run-down, sparse grey bedsit, prey to any intruders. Although he is constantly forced into the centre of the city by work and the police, he is safer on the margins, in anonymous streets, abandoned railway yards, disused buildings. Or at least he was before all the trouble started. He is defined against the grim, geometric anonymity of modern life, his milieu as soulless and constricting as the plot he moves in, the elevator shafts that imprison him. He is the image of man in a surveillance society, an innocent man (until proven guilty) having his every move followed by a police happy to use morality as a threat (many people see Melville's films as sublimated allegories of France under the Occupation). His only contact with people is in the preparation of death; his is a sterile, self-negating existence, ascetic as a monk (his uniform as ritual vestments). That Jef is a tragically lonely man is undoubted. There are two heartbreaking moments in this cool, austere film, when emotion breaks Alain Delon's astonishing performance, the most beautiful man in the movies letting slip just like the stills moving in 'La Jetee': when he goes back to the scene of the crime and looks at the pianist; his face for a brief second seems absolutely distraught, helpless, a child looking for a mother to reassure him (this is the key to the film, I believe, Jef the lonely wanderer searching for home); the second, after the celebrated Metro chase, in the stolen car, his face, for a moment, betraying hear-beating terror. At these moments, allegories and theories simply break down. Jef's mental breakdown is, of course, linked to all this. Over the credits, Jef smokes alone in his bedroom, barely visible - the two bright windows look like eyes, as in Beckett's 'End Game', a figure for the mind, a mind at the end of its tether as seen by Melville's horizontal use of Hitchcock's famous 'Vertigo' shot, contracting and constricting the room to breaking point, revealing the instability of this 'safe' haven, and Jef's image of himself. Mental deterioration is usually a subject of horror movies - the score features frequent bursts of chilling organ; when Jef goes to collect his car and gun for the contract, his accomplice, lit by a lamp, looks like a terrifying spirit. Jef is a trapped character, in his room, identity, plot; by the police and the gangsters; by geography, shadows, corridors; by the loop of time that forces him to return again and again to the same point - he is in hell; the only way out is self extinction. It is important not to see Melville as child of Sartre, which limits him, but of Nabokov, whose complex procedures of ludic expression find a cinematic equivalent in his work - it is vitally important not to take him at face value. Jef's shooting of Rey - impossible, magical - is pure Nabokov. I could go on - the Benjaminian idea of the flaneur and Paris; the extraordinary, near-futuristic sets; the comedy (e.g. see who Jef rides with in the police van answering to the same description); its remarkable analysis of the gaze; the brilliance of its action and suspense mechanics; the running motif of the theatre, performing, acting (in both senses) - Jef's costume; the line-up in a theatre-like space; the closing 'show is over' drum-roll. Everything about this film, as John Woo noted, is perfect, but there is one sequence, breaking with Melville's calm, distant style throughout, that I would list on my ten best ever - as Jef goes to collect the cash and is instead faced with a gun - firstly he faces the audience; we could be no closer. Then, just as the struggle begins, Melville cuts away, his camera manically panning away from the action behind bridge grills, following Jef as he runs and ineffectually chases his assailant's car. It is a heartstopping moment in a film still too little known. I've just watched it twice in two days; I really must watch it again.

  • Melville's masterpiece is pure seduction...

    i-grigoriev2004-10-24

    This film starts off with the same sound like Sergio Leone's 'C'era un volta il west', but it's just that here the sound is made not by a plate, but a canary, the cold-blooded killer's canary. This film was made in 1967, the French nouveau vague already apparent all over the place, but with much more subtle undertones than, say, a work by Truffaut. No, Melville's films were old-school, but at the same time revolutionary, in a delicate way. Take for example the 'chase' scene through the Metro. Practically nothing happens: there are no gunfights, no combat sequences, perhaps just a small chase. But it is Melville's camera and Delon's inimitable performance that keep the audience mesmerized all the way. The camera practically flirts with the audience throughout the whole movie, picking the most interesting angles and achieving so much practically without any effort. Delon's character changes his expression only once or twice during the movie, shoots faster than even Leone's gunslingers and never forgets to feed his canary. To me, one of the most accomplished antiheroes of the whole genre. The dialogue is barely there, but when it is, then it's something you'd probably wish you would have come up with yourself. It is a minimalist work that achieves the absolute maximum. Simply put: one of the best crime noirs ever made.

  • Melville's Masterpiece

    riskbreaker1132005-10-31

    I just recently saw this film for the first time (a la Criterion) and I was completely blown away. This film can be summed up with a single word: minimalism. This is a work of true cinema. Hollywood tends to forget that cinema is first and foremost a visual art. Le Samurai is a film that could've been made as a silent movie. The director establishes meaning not with dialog but with the best tools available to a director; editing, mise en scenes, cinematography and composition. There is a constant feeling of solitude and isolation. Even when the protagonist finds himself in large groups, his face is pale, his eyes are cast downward and he is still a constant outsider. On another note, the film looks surprisingly modern. There's none of the graininess of many other 60s and 70s films. Rather, the lighting and the whole visual aesthetic is pitch perfect, from the black and white nightclub (dualism) to the sparse gray apartment to the subterranean eeriness of the Paris subway. Personally, I would not recommend this film to people not interested in real cinema, people who like 'movies' rather than 'film', simply because there's a strong possibility it will seem extremely annoying and boring to you. On the other hand, if you're a fan of serious cinema, do yourself a favor and watch this film.

  • An ultra stylized icon of urban cool

    Camera-Obscura2006-06-02

    Melville's masterpiece about a contract killer, a modern day samuraï. He makes brilliant use of the city he loved so much, Paris. The feel, the sounds, the streets, the noise, it's all hauntingly cold and distant but at the same time he makes Paris seem like the coolest city in the world. In the beginning of the film Melville uses a beautiful static shot of over 4 minutes to establish the audience with a seemingly empty room, then we see smoke circling upwards. There must be someone in the room but it's practically impossible to determine where the smoke is coming from. Finally Jeff Costello gets up from his bed, which wasn't recognizable as such in the first place, and appears on screen. The whole set-up is more reminiscent of a moving replica of a painting by the surrealist Paul Delvaux than anything else in modern cinema. Another surreal set piece is when after his first hit, all possible suspects are brought in at a police station, including Delon himself. Not one by one but all of 'em at the same time. In the next scene we see at least a hundred "gangsters", all wearing trench coats and hats, in a large hall, where they will be interrogated "en plein public". Genuinely strange procedures but handled with such care and stylishness that it becomes completely believable. It gives the somewhat humorous suggestion that the streets of Paris are populated by hundreds, even thousands, of trenchcoat-wearing gangsters, all loners, only seeing each other at card games and occasions like this. Alain Delon is the perfect embodiment of gangster coolness in this career-defining role as a hit-man in Paris, a modern-day samuraï. "Le Gangster", as the French lovingly call them. Off course, these gangsters don't exist anymore and they probably never existed at all. French Gangsters must have been redefining their look after seeing Delon in this film. His association in real life with French criminal circles, in particular the Marseille underworld, has always given his performances a very strange aura. As a kid, I regularly visited my grandmother who lived near the city of Marseille and on French television I saw lots of French gangster movies (well, my parents let me watch with them). Alain Delon was in quite a few of them. When I grew older and could identify most of the French screen legends, Delon as no other came to represent the ultimate gangster. An stylized icon of urban cool. I'm also convinced that his character Jef Costello in Le Samouraï was the inspiration for the hissing and whispering fellow in the trench coat in Sesame Street (did he have a name?), something like a gangster, a criminal. A mysterious strange man you should avoid as a kid. I'll be damned if I'm wrong, but I still see Alain Delon in Sesame Street!

  • Sublime strangeness.

    FilmSnobby2005-10-31

    I'm going to go ahead and suggest, in my meager way, some reasons as to why Jean-Pierre Melville's *Le Samourai* is one of the greatest movies ever made, but it's far, far better for you to experience the film for yourself. You now have no more excuses: Criterion has just released it on DVD -- though, puzzlingly, this film doesn't get the deluxe double-disc treatment that the somewhat inferior *Le Cercle Rouge* received. Whatever -- I'll take it. Simply put, *Le Samourai* justifies -- beyond argument -- the auteur theory in cinema, which states, more or less, that the most artistically rich movies are "authored" by their directors. And how much more enjoyable it is for the viewer that the author in this case, Melville, is mostly concerned with entertaining you! Those who dread the prospect of a French film from the Sixties can rest assured: no Godardian slap-dash cross-cutting, here; no lolling around in bed with a girl, smoking cigarettes and spouting tough-guy Marxism; no confusing back-and-forth displacement of narrative time, a la Resnais. Oh, Melville was a New Wave director, to be sure, but he was NEVER an experimentalist in terms of narrative. Take a film by Godard, even his most famous film, *Breathless*: you have to meet Godard on his own terms, or get left behind (your loss!) But Melville pours his stories into your glass neat, no ice, no intellectual mixer. *Le Samourai* is about a gun-for-hire named Jef Costello (Alain Delon). His job is to eliminate a nightclub owner. He does so, but is witnessed leaving the scene of the crime by the club's piano player (Cathy Rosier). Later that night, during the police round-up, he's taken in as one of 400 or more potential suspects. The cops can't make it stick to Costello, but the superintendent (Francois Perier) isn't fooled by Costello or his airtight alibi. And thus Costello finds himself under police surveillance, and meanwhile, his criminal bosses want to rub him out in case he squeals to "le flics". In other words, the actual story is simplicity itself, and is frankly ripped off from all the B-movie American noirs that Melville loved so much. But none of this explains the stark originality of the movie. Of course, Melville gets some help. Let it be said that Delon is so good as the hunted hit-man that it almost defies description, let alone praise. Reportedly, he took the part after Melville had read to him the first 7 or 8 pages of the script. "I have no dialog for the first 10 minutes. I love it -- when can we start?" Delon is supposed to have said. Luckily for Melville, he found a kindred spirit in Delon, who, in any case, must have recognized the potentially iconic performance he could pull off if sympathetically directed. And boy, did he pull it off: NO ONE, in ANY movie, has ever been cooler than Delon's Costello. The movie was released in 1967 -- the Summer of Love -- but here's Delon anachronistically dressed in a single-breasted suit and a fedora, and getting away with it. (Well, okay, everyone else is wearing a hat, too, but this IS a Melville picture.) As for the performance itself, it bears comparison to Dirk Bogarde's Aschenbach in Visconti's *Death in Venice*: both roles are virtually silent yet must convey multitudes in a glance, in a movement, in a slight widening of the eyes. This is acting at its most meticulous, most physical, and most compact. Costello hardly ever says anything, but we're totally compelled by him, thanks to Delon's tight control. The influence of this character and Delon's performance has been nothing less than torrential: Pacino's Michael in *The Godfather* may serve as an obvious example. But much of this owes to Melville's original conception, as well. If Shakespeare needs good actors to carry his plays over, then good actors need Shakespearean-level material to reach their best performances. Melville, as always, flavors his pulpy stews with his own fevered artistic ingredients, the foremost of which is own idea of masculinity taken to the insane extreme. Tainted with Japanese samurai films, American gangster films, and westerns as well, Melville concocts a character whose every act is an expression of pure existentialism. The ultimate result is that frisson of sublime strangeness we as an audience encounter whenever we come face-to-face with a deeply considered and unique artistic vision. The best art is really weird, yet recognizable and unforgettable. *Le Samourai* is among the best art. 10 stars out of 10.

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