Thursday, March 24, 2016

Le Samourai (1967)

I've spent a large part of the past couple of days feeling very ill.  I was forced to drag myself from my sick bed today to attend a funeral.  After which, I returned home and went back to bed.  All-in-all, a really cheerful couple of days.  Although I'm feeling considerably better this evening, I'm still not up to posting anything substantial.  Instead, I thought that I'd present another 'Random Movie Trailer', this time of one of those French movies it now seems impossible to find either dubbed or English sub-titled versions of.

Le Samourai stands as one of director Jean-Pierre Melville's greatest thrillers - which is saying something when one considers his overall output, which includes the likes of Bob le Flambeur, Le Cercle Rouge and Un Flic.  It also feature Alain Delon in one of his most iconic roles, as Jef, the perfectionist hitman, who always has a meticulously arranged alibi and never leaves any clues behind when he carries out a hit.  Until, that is, a job goes wrong and he is seen by several witnesses, including the female pianist in the night club where the hit was carried out.  Jef now finds himself pursued by both the police and his underworld associates, who fear that if he is arrested, he'll talk and identify them.  Trying to evade both parties, he also becomes embroiled by the pianist, intrigued as to why she failed to positively ID him in a police line up, despite having clearly seen his face.

Le Samourai represents a near perfect encapsulation of many of Melville's recurring themes:outsiders who live by complex personal codes of honour and the fact that, no matter how hard they try, the characters can never escape their, apparently preordained, fates.  Efficiently shot from an economical script, which wastes no words, the film effectively racks up the tension, presenting a number of precisely orchestrated action and suspense set-pieces.  The character of Jef, all icy efficiency and a man of few words, perfectly suits Delon's image at this stage of his career, with his unnaturaly handsome, yet somehow cold, looks: a mask that rarely betrays any emotional response.  Yet still, he makes Jef highly charasmatic, eliciting the audience's sympathy.

The movie used be a regular fixture in BBC2's late night schedules, back in the days when they still showed foreign language films. Highly influential in popular culture (Jim Jarmusch's Ghost Dog: Way of the Samurai and John Woo's The Killer, for instance, both draw inspiration from Melville's film) and really does deserve to be shown more on British TV.



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