“Le Samourai”, considered as one of Jean-Pierre Melville’s top films and a stylish and minimalistic take on film noir. The film that inspired many including John Woo who has said his masterpiece “The Killer” was a tribute to “Melville” and have used certain scenes in his own films to pay homage to “Le Samourai”.
Jean-Pierre Melville, the director known for directing films such as “Les Enfants terribles”, “Bob le flambeur”, “Le Doulos” and later “Le Cercle rouge” would create his masterpiece “Le Samourai” in 1967. The title of the film to describe a lone tiger in the jungle, the film about a hitman named Jef Costello (played by Alain Delon, “L’Eclisse”, “Mr. Klein”, “Mort d’un pourri”, “Notre histoire”) who is hired to kill a nightclub owner.
“Le Samourai” is a film that is not difficult to enjoy. It’s rather a simple film but its the presentation that captures your attention. Where hit men are typically not the main focal point of a film, Jean-Pierre Melville’s “Le Samourai” focuses on giving the viewer a chance to see an unperturbed hitman, methodical, cool and in Melville’s words…a schizophrenic.
Alain Delon is simply fantastic as Jef Costello. His style as the cool and suave hitman is on one side visual, but when it comes to the performance, Costello is not trying to be ravishing, nor is he trying to be anything. The man is stoic and expressionless. Like a lone samurai, this is where the title of the film is derived. He is paid to kill and even though he is a skilled hitman, you wonder what he does with the money he has made throughout the years. His home shows no sense of any luxury but a bird in its cage, a bed, a chair and a fridge. He doesn’t own the best cars, he drives stolen cars and carries around a hold carrying many keys which can be used to break into a car or home.
There is definitely a sense of style when it comes to “Le Samourai”, much different than many of the American film noir that most have been accustomed to seeing. And again, it is not that Jef Costello is trying to show off that he has style but its the man Alain Delon as Jef Costello that truly shines with the lost expression, donning the fedora, black or beige trench coat, black tie, white shirt and at times, wearing the white gloves when making the kill. There are no cracked jokes, there are no James Bond flirtations with the beautiful women in the film. It’s a whole different type of character 0ne is not used to seeing on film and “Le Samurai” proved to a be a wonderful hybrid of French and American cinema.
Overall, “Le Samourai” is probably one of Melville’s most accessible and entertaining films.