English Title: Le Samourai
Original Title: Le samouraï
Country: France, Italy
Genre: Crime, Drama
Director: Jean-Pierre Melville
Music: François de Roubaix
Cinematography: Henri Decaë
At this year’s KVIFF, thanks to a tribute section of Jean-Pierre Melville’s oeuvre, for the first time, I watched LE SAMOURAI, whose kudos have been worshipped by more than half a century and will continue afterwards. This is my third Melville’s film after LE CERCLE ROUGE (1970) and ARMY OF SHADOWS (1969), and it’s the zenith of French-noir, which has masterfully engaged its core spirit in the Japanese samurai cachet.
The film wholeheartedly steeps itself into the steel blue palette and thus a kind of unprecedented filmic magic happens, with a neat and self-disciplined camerawork, a French assassin’s point-of-no-return karma has seductively reveled its viewers into an astonishing rapture through the engaging 105 minute, accompanying by the mind-blowing score from François de Roubaix. The film carries on a restrained, or even abstract approach to its narrative arch and the dialogue-scarce execution is the ace in the hole, till a samurai-esque self-sacrifice as the finale.
Undisputedly this is Alain Delon’s most significant role although he is barely an adroit thespian, but Melville has excavated Delon’s deadly mesmerizing allure out of his soul as Jef Costello, the taciturn and grim assassin, whose reticent way of acting impeccably magnifies his panache and which would later on become a token of his screen image. Delon’s first wife Nathalie Delon was a perfect foil in the film and her interplay with the detective (a stern and astute François Périer) manifests that with regard to acting skills, she might be superior to her hubby.
But after all, the film is a director’s gem, Melville didn’t earn his deserved stature at his time both domestically and internationally (particularly since his untimely pass away in 1973), but his canon has survived equally well (if not better) than his compatriot auteurs, and what’s more precious, is that his films have a psychiatric and behavioral sway not only over his peers but the generations after as well, also a distinctive cinematic aesthetics must be attributed to him, which has been spread further on by numerous proteges all around the world.