Well, after watching The Driver I felt compelled to finally catch up with Le Samourai. The two aren’t really in the same league. Where The Driver is a slightly-too-hardboiled gritty thriller, Le Samourai is a slick, faultless production.
Alain Delon plays hit man Jef Costello, who gets spotted leaving the scene of the crime. He has a solid alibi though, and the witnesses give differing opinions as to his identity, so the police have to let him go. Nevertheless, a persistent police chief has him tailed, in an attempt to gather more evidence, or even catch him in the act of another job.
Melville draws from so many places to make Le Samourai work. There’s the Film Noir femme fatale, the cat and mouse chase, but also there’s American gangster movie elements to the film, set to a 60s French pop culture backdrop. With all that, he still manages to find his own voice. Just as Jef carefully plans his every move, Melville meticulously constructs every frame in the film.
Delon is a cool character, and makes Ryan O’Neal look like a pale imitator. Jef has a few more words to say but there’s still very little dialogue in Le Samourai. However he gives off the air of a man who knows his stuff; the script allows actions to speak louder than words. Everything he does is deliberate, he’s always ahead of the game. It’s transfixing to watch, and we’re always waiting to see how he’s going to react to the next situation.
Something about this film absolutely captivated me. The music, the lighting, the acting - it’s all so beautiful, original and yes, cool. An instant favourite.