A French UN delegate has disappeared into thin air, sending reporter Moreau (Jean-Pierre Melville) and hard drinking photographer Delmas (Pierre Grasset) on an assignment to find him. Their only lead is a picture of three women.
A small-time thief steals a car and impulsively murders a motorcycle policeman. Wanted by the authorities, he reunites with a hip American journalism student and attempts to persuade her to run away with him to Italy.
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.Written by
Leon Wolters <wolters@strw.LeidenUniv.nl>
The caged bird is a bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula). In the book "Melville on Melville" the director stated: "I wanted the opening shots to be predominately gray, so I used a female bullfinch because it is just black and white, without the male's orange breast." See more »
The streets change from bone dry to soaking wet and raining when Jef flees from the female undercover cop in the Paris Metro. See more »
Jef Costello is a contract killer, a lone wolf living in Paris in 1967. He is vocally inert, a modern day samurai who emulates the intensity and devotion of an old school samurai. Costello finds himself arrested for a murder that he is guilty of. He is taken to a line-up and identified by a select few who saw him leave the scene of the crime. Amazingly he gets away with it, this might be the only niggling thing in the movie, you feel it is impossible for a man to come so close with the law and not get charged. Alas, he is a free man. The rest of the film focuses on the police trying to bring him down, to crack his alibis, to catch him in the act. The final scene I can not comment on without spoiling. Melville certainly delivers on his statement that he likes to leave the audience confused. However you interpret the ending is the true meaning to you. It may frustrate some, but personally I think it is the most well executed ending I have seen in a long time.
This film radiates that dark brooding look that only European movies portray well. The simplistic yet striking sets make streets and the most mundane objects look like works of art. The audacious use of pop culture in the form of art and artifacts adds to the overall tone of the film. The mash up of elements, the sassy colors of the 60's, the sophisticated noir qualities and the undercurrent of Japanese cinema makes this film so remarkable. It sounds as if it would clash violently, and it does, but it works. You feel very detached watching this movie, free to interpret it how you want; there is little dialog which I would like to see more in movies. It is so suggestive; this film caters to those who do not like condescending films that spell out what is going on, as if you are watching an episode of Sesame Street. This film is simply epic. One that I am going to insist upon watching monthly.
Further more, Criterion really know who to spoil connoisseurs of film. I recommend you invest in buying the criterion collection edition of Le Samourai. It comes with a 32 page booklet including excerpts from Melville on Melville and essays by David Thomson and filmmaker John Woo, as well as 6 interview clips with various actors from the film and an interview with Jean- Pierre Melville.
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