Le Samourai (1967)

Le Samourai 1967

Le Samourai – IMDb 237/250

We return to French cinema for my next classic IMDb film, Le Samourai (1967) – a crime film starring Alain Delon as Jef Costello, a fastidious and sullen hitman, or Samourai if you prefer, who carries out a contract for a crime lord by murdering a nightclub owner.

The film follows the immediate aftermath of this job, including the police’s attempts to prove he was the murderer, as well as Jef trying to survive being killed himself by those who hired him.

Seen as a French classic, Le Samourai is a very slow moving film, with little dialogue, grinding along at the pace of someone trying out hundreds of keys until he finds one that fits. This isn’t just a poorly worded metaphor by the way; this is one of the scenes of the film. A guy trying key after key after key to fit into a door. It drags a bit.

It feels very realistic, with colours like grey and white permeating throughout showcasing 60s France – but not the idealistic image we might conjure up about France – instead showing us the dull and damp features of the French metro station and city. However these dreary grey’s only add to the rather dull feel I felt while watching this.

Jef Costello is simply the central character in this film. With the other characters there is little to no character development, but we learn more about Jef’s character as the film slowly progresses.

At first it is hard to get a read on him. As a hired gun – showing little remorse for his actions, we might think of Jef as a villain, not a hero.

But by the end there is an intrigue to him, he has weaknesses, fragility, and by the end we see a remorseful side to his character, particularly evident in the last scene of the film.

The quietly charismatic Jef Costello - played with style by Alain Delon

The quietly charismatic Jef Costello – played with style by Alain Delon

The ending of Le Samourai easily improved this film in my eyes. Sitting back watching it rather nonchalantly, with an idea already in my mind for the rating I would give it, the ending truly shocked me, and left doubt over almost everything I thought I knew about the film and action that I’d watched.

Like a good novel, what is important in Le Samourai is what we don’t see, what happens outside the main plot – rather than the action taking place in front of us. It is hard to say more without giving away any spoilers – but for the ending alone I would recommend this film.

But similar to what I said about Three Colours: Red, the other French noir on my list, Le Samourai ultimately was style over substance. Very little happens and the plot moves as quickly as an England attack in football (yes I am still bitter about that). In fact with a running time of 105 minutes, and the intricate details that take place in every scene, there isn’t much story that director Jean-Pierre Melville could fit in.

What I have enjoyed most about this list however is the different kinds of movies I’ve seen, watching unique films I would never have got to see otherwise – From French films like Le Samourai to Korean films such as Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… and Spring, this list shows the diversity and brilliance of cinema.

Le Samourai: 5/10

Paul

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