Hitman Jef Costello is a perfectionist who always carefully plans his murders and who never gets caught. One night however, after killing a night-club owner, he’s seen by witnesses. His efforts to provide himself with an alibi fail and more and more he gets driven into a corner.SYNOPSIS:
“There is not greater solitude than that of a Samourai, unless it’s that of a tiger in the jungle…perhaps.” -Bushido (Book of the Samourai)
Modeled on the notion that emotion shows weakness, Alain Delon’s eponymous role as a hired assassin plays as strong a performance than any other who have attempted to bring bravado and sleekness to the muscle persona.
Delon plays Jef Costello a minimalist, cold and precise gun for hire who’s on the run after botching his most recent job at a swanky French nightclub. While the subject doesn’t sound particularly striking, it plays out like an expansive avant-garde exercise in patience, technique and vulnerability.
Those who have seen the film , will know that the story is about process and a mans understanding of a solitary existence-that by choice we lead ourselves towards an inevitable end…what happens to us on our way there, cannot be stopped…but it can be persuaded.
This thinking bleeds out of Alain’ Jef. With a cold stare and equally frigid heart, Jef lives in a state of limbo throughout the picture. He is the human gray area. Not truly defined by earnest emotion, but rather a striking sense of arrogance and helplessness living between the role of citizen and killer. It’s when those characteristics meld that we see the efficient, and controlled mind of Le Samourai emerge.
“Never has a man put on a hat and coat so perfectly.”
Shot with immaculate precision by Henri Decae, the film truly defines the new wave/neo-noir style. Where once shadows existed to hide the brooding sinister beings looking to terrorize us, Melville strips away the dark and pushes them right in our face.The use of colour and tone really sets up the movie from the very first second. A two minute static shot of a lone gunman smoking inside his empty apartment while his pet bird chirps from inside his cage screams for the arthouse crowd. More importantly though rather than solely being eye candy this shot perhaps juxtaposes that inside Jef too is trapped and crying out? Perhaps this leads to his mis–calculation at the club?Maybe?
When one thinks of it, takes a pretty cold bast’d to be able to give you chills in broad daylight, and Melville understands this…making every shot, transition and cut logical and effective. The man is really painting here. Bold washed out stripes of fury and isolated blobs of colour- the summation of Le Samourai’ effectiveness as something much more than just 105 minutes of film. There is energy, and prowess, achieving something more than the traditional genre gazer would anticipate.
However, those expecting a taught, action based shoot ‘em up fraught with quips and womanizing- ala James Bond may be a little let down. Think of it as the art-house 007. A French Bourne, perhaps. Less hulk, more sulk.
Leading the way for such filmmakers as John Woo, Gus Van Zant, The Coen Brothers (view this, then screen the duo’s minimalist masterpiece NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN-eerie no?)…Melville fills the screen with many washed out, static shots, tracking the supposed arrogance of the title character, and the tumultuous existence he lives, displays and balances.
It is for all these reasons that I continue to re-watch this movie and turn people onto this otherwise unknown story, so that they too can experience one of the most calculated characters in modern cinema.3/5-AH
I also recommend these titles: Man Bites Dog, Un Flic, Les Diaboliques.