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Samouraï, Le
1 review

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Movie Details

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Directed By
Jean-Pierre Melville

Written By:
Jean-Pierre Melville, Georges Pellegrin

Alain Delon, Francois Perier, Nathalie Delon, Michel Boisrond, André Thorent, Cathy Rosier, Jacques Leroy, Robert Favart, Jean-Pierre Posier, Catherine Jourdan, Roger Fradet, Carlo Nell, Robert Rondo, André Salgues, André Thorent, Jacques Deschamps

Samouraï, Le (1967)
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Movie Review by Jesse
July 16th, 2007

Perfection through Existentialism and Noir Vision!

My personal favourite of Jean-Pierre Melville's masterpieces. This is one of the best films of the French New Wave of the 50s/60s incorporating not only existentialistic themes, but themes and culture of the Japanese samurai films of the early 50s.

Le Samouraï's lead character Jef Costello, a hitman, lives his profession and never displays emotion. His ever so bland stare is part of the honor he has to his rituals and lifestyle. He lives by the samurai code and stays faithful to it until the very end.

We don't know much about Costello for it isn't shown in the film, but we don't need to know a lot to understand his character. Unlike many other film characters of this genre, there is no transcendence in Melville's main character, but instead through existentialism this character thrives. I would like to call Jef Costello an existential hero, but unfortunately there is nothing heroic about him in this film. He is an existential human who lives by his own rules; he is his own boss.

When interpreting the ending, many different views come up. The only logical one is that Jef, who lives by the way of the samurai, maintains the honor and loyalty to his lifestyle and commits a hara-kiri (or seppuku)-like ritual. If this is correct (what Melville intended us to believe), then Costello is added to the list of noir's incredible antiheroes and this film becomes even more intriguing to analyse.

So many different interpretations can be taken from this film. Everything in this film is important to the character and conclusion. The stunning cinematography by Henri Decaë highlights the opening scene (and most other scenes following it). Costello lies on his bed, barely visible, smoking a cigarette while the smoke forms a cloud above him. The cloud of smoke looks somewhat striking though, because the faint sunlight through the rain hits the windows of his apartment and is piercing it in an odd way. The way the camera captures the scene is beautiful, yet gloomy, and represents Costello's life very well. This scene is terrific for setting up the character and situations to follow by displaying such gloom through pathetic fallacy and through the lighting/production design.

Jef's character is one of the most interesting characters to study and observe in any film I've ever seen. His genteel appearance and striking look make for terrific casting and the fedora and trenchcoat he wears make his character that much more mysterious.

Through the cinematography especially, suspense and mystery is created not only around the situation, but more so around the character of Jef Costello. A perfect film if I ever saw one. Jean-Pierre Melville is a genius and I intend on seeing all of his films now.

I highly recommend this masterpiece to everyone for it is one of the greatest films of the French New Wave/60s and one of the greatest films of all-time, also.

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