Le Samouraï Screen 15 articles

Le Samouraï


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  • This movie is a cerebrally paced, meticulously framed, fantastically good-looking stiff. The Siren admired its stark construction but it was an endurance test, 105 minutes that felt twice as long as L'Armée did at 145... The Siren can understand the admiration for the steel-colored perfection of Le Samouraï's look. But watching Delon dart around the Metro, in fear for his life, left her as cold as Harry Lime looking down from the Ferris wheel.

  • ...Le samourai, shot in color by Henri Decae (another New Wave luminary who shot The 400 Blows, Purple Noon, and the early features of Claude Chabrol), is so exquisitely controlled in its narrow palette — finding something that’s metallic blue-gray in almost every shot — that, as Melville expressed it himself, it presents color as a kind of black and white.

  • Not only is this version of Le Samourai hideously dubbed and released in a duped print which destroys the superb colour-styling of Jeff [sic] Costello's Paris as a chillingly twilit, blue-grey hell, but it is cut to what might reasonably be called ribbons... Even in this butchered form Le Samourai is a remarkable film, but Melville's masterpiece is reduced to a pale, ragged shadow of its former self.

  • In Le Samouraï Melville combines the cumulative what-happens-next tension of the crime thriller with a meticulous pictorial formalism which holds the lifestyle of a criminal assassin open to contemplation, as if under glass.

  • Shot in color-leeched tones of mud-puddle brown and fedora gray, its cartoon ase study of the final days of an ultramethodical hit man... amounts to a celebration of tough-guy choreography that leaves little form for emotion... Depending on your temperament, you'll either find Le samourai the most boring crime film ever mounted or the most exciting. As with Jerry Lewis, you either love it or hate it; I could watch it a dozen times.

  • The whole hermetic ritual is close to laughable—a particular form of macho camp. (No wonder John Woo called Le Samourai a "perfect" film.) But Le Samourai has its own formal integrity—less playful than Bob le Flambeur or Le Doulos, it's the achieved distillation of Melville's aesthetic. As abstract and austere as Bresson's Pickpocket, Le Samourai is a movie of unexpected betrayals, livened with intervals of deftly choreographed action.

  • Jean-Pierre Melville creates a precise, taut, and elegant film in Le Samouraï. Jef's inscrutable, Bressonian demeanor (note the similarity of Jef's countenance with Michel's in Robert Bresson's Pickpocket) is reflected through the use of austere colors (blues and grays), inclement weather, and pervasive silence to create an unnatural and unnerving atmosphere.

  • Jean-Pierre Melville had the flair to invent a quotation from the "Bushido Book of the Samurai" as an on-screen preface: "There is no greater solitude than the samurai's, unless it is that of the tiger in the jungle ... perhaps." No further allusion to Japanese culture is required: that's enough to give Le Samourai an abstract, mythic, timeless air. It is a breathtaking work, stylised to the point of asphyxiation, in which the imaginary world of cinema beats reality hands down.

  • Tone and style are everything with Le samouraï. Poised on the brink of absurdity, or a kind of attitudinizing male arrogance, Jean-Pierre Melville’s great film flirts with that macho extremism and slips over into dream and poetry just as we grow most alarmed.

  • The procedural spiral of fate and moral emptiness uncoils in magnificent, slow, almost banal ways, evoking every film of its type while it silently declares them inadequate to the task of exploring humanity... Swallowed by an anachronistic trench coat and fedora, which nevertheless blends into Melville’s un-’60s-ish timelessness, Delon became here that rare thing: a movie totem, not an actor or character but a temple-god in our communal consciousness.

  • While Suzuki’s yakuza films are absurd, loopy and playful in their narrative incoherence, often employing a theatrical mise en scène borrowed from the stylised naturalism of Kabuki theatre, Melville’s somber, meditative and often hypnotic film owes a lot more to the minimalist, reserved Noh theatre of the medieval warrior class, a theatre that demands to be watched in respectful silence.

  • For many cinephiles—among them John Woo and Johnnie To—this is the quintessential Jean-Pierre Melville film... The movie is rich in double-crosses and hidden motives—as well as a seductive sense of movement (assisted by a keen, deco-inspired production design) that mirrors the hero's own progression.

  • The immaculate geometry of Alain Delon's facial features is expanded into pictorial magnitude in Le samouraï (1967), the “analysis of a schizophrenic sketched by a paranoid,” in Melville's own words. Practically a silent film crystallized into minimalist gestures and eloquent pauses, this compendium of Parisian Bushido distils the contemplative solitude that will characterize Melville's late oeuvre.

  • The alertness to detail and the patience with which Melville documents forms both the film’s backbone of cinematic exposition and gives context to the story it is telling on more than a literal level. The process of criminal enterprise is viewed with a precise and lucid eye for the minutiae a man in Jef’s profession must orchestrate with utmost care, whilst also accumulating cinematic images based around these details that can only work in the way they do as film.

  • The film concerns the perfection of form and of etiquette that embodies a pragmatism that might occasionally yield conventional morality. For Melville, perfection means the absence of extraneousness, especially in terms of professionalism and art . . . With its hyper-articulate mixture of the exotic and the proletariat, Le Samouraï has proven enormously influential, refining a sex appeal for the modern crime film which can fascinate even the most self-consciously macho of bros.

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