Le samouraï - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Le samouraï Reviews

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March 26, 2015
Alain Delon has had it. It's 1967, he's sitting on the hot seat of France's famed movie series, Monsieur Cinéma, and he's promoting Le Samouraï. "We have the great pleasure of welcoming Alain Delon to our show," the host says, looking in his guest's direction. "Alain Delon is in the spotlight because 'Le Samouraï' is opening this week." But the ambiance doesn't feel like a respected Inside the Actors Studio precursor; it feels more like a talk show, and Delon isn't in a good mood. He's been better known for his looks than his talents for his entire career. He's proud of the work he has done in acclaimed works like Purple Noon and The Leopard, but he finds himself taken less seriously than he'd like to be simply because he resembles a suave Dolce & Gabbana model. The Male Bardot, they call him.
But he's 32. He doesn't want to be labeled as a pretty boy who somehow gets enviable parts any longer. So instead of saying thank you to his host's polite but slightly condescending introduction, he elaborates on the date of the film's opening. "It's this Wednesday." he smirks. Aware of his guest's snarky mood, the host tries to pick himself back up. "The posters are all over Paris, and they're very striking. 'Le Samouraï', in big, black letters."
"Red." Delon interrupts before his interviewer can even say "letters." He's seen it all before: the host who actually knows nothing about the film but pretends to love it, the host who puts on a grin in order to appease disinterested viewers. Maybe he would have let this fly in the past, but Le Samouraï is far too important to him. He believes it to be a turning point in his undermined career. This isn't just some fluffy movie audiences hear about on a television program like it's Dean Martin's newest vehicle; this is "a work of art," he puts it. "A true auteur film in every aspect."
He goes on to discuss the ins-and-outs of the film with the watchful eye of an obsessed movie buff, and it's unlike anything we've seen Delon do before, personally or professionally. He's always been the confident kid that whisks by with a hint of danger, an exotic woman by his side. This image, along with the entire introduction of this review, may or may not be dramatized speculation on my part, but when I picture Delon, I picture him as the guy from L'Eclisse, fiendishly charismatic but in a tug-of-war between boyhood and the idea of an adulthood in which being taken seriously is everything.
Jean-Pierre Melville uses Delon in a way most directors would be afraid to attempt. Before, Delon's charm was his selling point, but in Le Samouraï, his allure is snatched from him. Melville takes away any ounce of precious dialogue in favor of a more nuanced approach, forcing Delon to embody a particularly cryptic character mostly through body language. In the past, actors in gangster films have been able to mangle the script and somehow spike their delivery to sound more menacing than usual. But Delon has to do something even harder, having to exude invincibility all the while keeping an icy exterior. People turn towards scenery-chewing performances when thinking about characterizations that "moved" them; in contrast Delon has done something masterful with subtlety, undoubtedly more impressive than the booming Shakespearian actors that began to creep out during the 1960s.
He portrays Jef Costello, a hitman who secludes himself in stark landscapes in order to wash away any hint of an emotion. Famously, the film opens in a darkly lit apartment, completely silent except for a bird chirping every few seconds. Cigarette smoke dangles in the atmosphere while Costello liess on his bed, looking out his window with reflection. As Melville holds this shot for several uncomfortable minutes, the character is developed before we are even given the chance to hear his name. Whether he's a comedian or a Liza Minnelli impersonator or an assassin, we're witnessing an individual so drenched in solitude that the idea of loneliness may not even occur to them.
We see Costello go through his daily rituals, putting on his trench coat and fedora with strange precision, keying a car to get some extra loot, later pulling a job at a nightclub. Throughout the film, he doesn't show the slightest smidgen of a feeling. Is he numb? In denial? Truthfully, it doesn't matter. Though the storyline sees his normally smooth routine being interrupted by an investigation, he doesn't seem worried about the government closing in on his every move. He is so far into a life of crime that dying for his cause doesn't seem all that bad.
This is probably why the film is called Le Samouraï, as the samurais in all those Asian epics were more than willing to lose their lives in order to appease their reputations and their peers. Unlike Melville's earlier projects, Le Samouraï doesn't have the same blatant criminal romanticism. It's slick and crystalline, yes, but every frame carries enough tension to suggest that Dolph Lundgren might come out of the shadows and Machine Gun Kelly everyone to death. A tragic ending is a given. Silence is cherished in the film; along with Delon's moodless characterization, the facsimile of scenic solitude is furthered. The greyed-out style, Melville's intricate direction, and, of course, Delon's performance, work together with astonishing virtuosity.
The only complaint I ever find myself having with Melville films is how untouchable they are. They feel miles apart from us, detached, so stylish that we grow to be more appreciative than adoring. But there is no denying how great a filmmaker Melville is. "He's the greatest director I've had the good fortune, pleasure, and honor to work with up to this point." Delon dryly gushes later on in the Monsieur Cinéma interview. It sounds dramatic, but sometimes, melodrama can be true. Melville is not just a guy with a dream; he's a visionary, a poet of style.
½ January 19, 2015
A man so cool he can't be bothered to finish spelling his own name, (or even speak in the first 10 minutes of the movie), hit man Jef Costello is hunted by enemies and friends alike, and he doesn't have any friends. Le Samourai is the figurehead of Melville's career, the story a lone assassin whose rigid code is undone by the unforeseen arrival of love. It's a stalwart theme now, but no film has done it so sparely and tragically. Costello lives by the strict code of the Bushido, thinks deeply, chain-smokes cigarettes and wears a hat indoors. He is, in short, le samourai, the ultimate antihero in Jean-Pierre Melville's existential crime thriller. Thanks to Alain Delon's career-best turn and Melville's noose-tight plotting, he's a true icon of cinema. John Woo owes his career to this.
November 6, 2014
Jean-Pierre Melville's stylish french film noir exudes atmosphere and a whole lotta attitude!
½ September 7, 2014
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½ August 6, 2014
a masterpiece, a very iconic role indeed for Alain Delon
TheDudeLebowski65
Super Reviewer
July 13, 2014
A flawless stroke of filmmaking, Le Samourai is a superbly crafted picture that is captivating from the first frame, and doesn't let up. What stand out about the film are the terrific and superb performances, its striking visual appeal, which enhances the film's melancholic mood and of course the effective direction from filmmaker Jean-Pierre Melville, who crafts something that is quite unique. I heavily recommend the film to any fan of fine cinema, and Le Samourai is such a film, a picture that both brutal and exquisite. The film has film noir styling's which enhances the film significantly. The cast doe a fine job in their respective roles, and the film's story is simple, yet effective enough to keep you involved from start to finish. This is a well crafted picture and one that stands as a classic of cinema. Simple to the point storytelling with a fine cast of talented actors elevate the film significantly, and in turn Le Samourai succeeds at grabbing your attention from start to finish. The film is steadily paced to build up the tension, and it adds much more anxiety in the viewer, therefore you simply cannot tear yourself away because you want to see what will happen next. I heavily recommend the film, and as a fine piece of cinema, Actor Alain Delon brings a cold charisma in the lead performance that resonates throughout the film, and he is perfect for the role he plays. Le Samourai has had a significant impact on other pictures, and it's easy to understand why. The simple story of a hitman who poorly thought out his hit is interesting and there are many other ways to make another film around that idea. This film can easily be summarized as a slow burning dramatic thriller, as every scene increases the tension, and that's what makes this film truly standout, along with brilliant performances and skilled direction from a director who managed to create something so good with a simple concept.
½ June 25, 2014
A lackluster ending, but it seems to fit with a film that is all style and no substance.
June 15, 2014
rented ( yes in a video store) at Black Dog Video
April 4, 2014
Gripping tale. Jeff's economy of words and sense of style is charming. Every scene/sequence is detailed and easy-paced. Great direction. Must see film.
March 18, 2014
Beloved of "serious" film (as opposed to movie) lovers, Le Samourai fails to reward viewers on an emotional or dramatic level. The major interest here is in the cinematography, style, and imagery, while the main character is without much development and cannot really hold our interest. Alain Delon here is reduced to looking beautiful, wearing a trenchcoat, walking up and down stairs, getting in and out of cars, and smoking. No words are spoken until the first 9 minutes of footage have expired.

I'd have to call this overrated and rather pretentious.
January 30, 2014
Le classique de Melville.
½ January 23, 2014
Só um realizador com a classe de Jean-Pierre Melville conseguiria transformar um noir francês num filme tão magnificamente nobre como o Samurai do título. Melville nunca precisa de gastar muitas balas para ser um grande senhor dos filmes de acção.
½ January 8, 2014
Excellent film. Just like with Melville's "Le Cercle Rouge," there is a minimal amount of dialogue. A major influence on John Woo, particularly "The Killer."
Super Reviewer
½ December 19, 2013
When a film is revered as a classic of world cinema by viewers and critics alike, it's only so long before you have to check it out for yourself. In the case of Jean-Pierre Melville's "Le Samouraï", I did just that, and I didn't regret it for minute. It's entirely understandable why this features on my people's lists of favourites.

Jef Costello (Alain Delon), is a hitman who lives alone and has very little human interaction or real relationships. It's the code he lives by in order to remain professional. After completing his contract killing of a nightclub owner, Costello lets his guard down and is witnessed by one of the club's singers. Before he knows it, he's brought in by the police who suspect he's guilty but don't have the evidence to prove it. He's released, but the police are on his trail and so are his employers who now see him as a liability.

As the film opens we linger on a shot of a small desolate room containing only a birdcage and a bed. At first site, it appears the room is empty until you notice a man lying on the bed, smoking a cigarette and saying nothing. This opening shot alone, sets the tone for what is to come in Jean-Pierre Melville's fastidious and incisive near masterpiece. Melville wastes no time on backstory or over explaining the plot. He also has an aversion to dialogue but a very high inclination on style and content. What dialogue there is, is short and to the point. Things are as they are, and that's it. Although, this might sound like there's very little substance to be had here, that couldn't be farther from the truth. Despite, Melville's minimalist approach, the film is awash with symbolism and a deep existential core. This is a director that paved the way for French New Wave cinema, but when you look at his work here, you realise he wasn't as flashy as, say, Jean Luc Goddard or as disjunctive as Francois Truffaut. Melville opts more for restraint and meticulous detail. It's here that he's served perfectly in his leading man Alain Delon. Very rarely have I seen an actor do (and say) practically nothing yet remain so magnetic. Delon is absolutely superb and one of cinema's quintessential and most compelling anti-hero's.

Despite the obvious restraint from cast and crew, though, the film's not without it's moments of masterfully crafted tension. An exchange with the police as they try to identify Costello in a line-up is drawn out and quietly suspenseful and a brilliantly constructed chase on the French metro - which has influenced such directors as William Friedkin in "The French Connection" or Brian De Palma in "Carlito's Way". But again, Melville or Delon never overplay it. The tension is purely built on a sense of realism and grows from their reservation and seemingly stoic approach. When you break "Le Samourai" down a little, you'll see the inspiration that it's had on many films since; directors Jim Jarmusch and John Woo have openly declared the effect it had on them and their films "Ghost Dog: Way of the Samurai" and "The Killer", respectively. Even Quentin Tarantino has claimed it to be his favourite gangster film.

It's easy to see why this postmodern, art-house, thriller has appealed and influenced so many filmmakers, as Melville manages to seamlessly blend Western crime folklore with the traditions and warrior codes of the East. He gives it that classic noir look and feel that was so prevalent in the American movies of the 30's and 40's and his vision of Paris' underworld (in desaturated colour) echoes that of American noir in his use of nightclubs, enigmatic jazz singers and dark streets and alleyways that reflect an almost war ravaged city.

Tarantino himself, is guilty of moulding a generation of crime loving cinema goers who expect gratuitous violence and have a propensity for fast talking mobsters. However, when you look back at the stylish and meditative work of Melville, you realise that in order to capture an audience's attention, you don't have to have Mexican standoff's or be talking about Big Kahuna burgers or getting medieval on people's asses with a pair of pliers and a blowtorch. Simplicity can be just as effective.

Mark Walker
December 10, 2013
It ranks up with Melville's best films.
½ December 4, 2013
One lonely handsome hitman who has a lonely bird like him in a cage kept in his shabby apartment
November 10, 2013
European Neo Noir at it's finest
October 20, 2013
QUE ESTUPENDA PELICULA FRANCESA Y UN GRAN ACTOR ALAIN DELON
October 3, 2013
great film..the potential of this film lies in its simplicity..it shows passion of a man for his profession..the respect for his principles(which he says it as his 'habits') ..and a man who is so detached from sentiments that he doesn't even give a smile through the whole movie..the only moment we feel he has sentiment's is when he gives a good bye hug to his lover..the movie is completely dependent on the director and his capability and the characters in the film..it does not relay on dialogues...it show how detached this character is from sentiments..he is calm collective and keep's all his thoughts to him self..melville directs the film with such class that it show his control over what he is doing..the 1st long shot of the film is brilliant..its shows the solitude of this character (jeff costello)..he can understand subtle changes in his pet bird , this shows how lonely a man he is..alain delon(jeff) shows his potential as an actor with his masterful control over his emotions..the narrative is well written..the two women in this movie add to the fact of jeff's detachment from his emotion...this movie is a must watch..
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