Le Samourai

Jean-Pierre Melville, France/Italy, 1967, 95 minutes

Jef Costello is a samurai; his battleground is not ancient Japan, but a dark and sullen modem Paris. He has a loyal girlfriend who will lie to provide him with an alibi, a mind which is alternately unthinking, intelligent, and paranoid to just the right degree, and a personal bushido which both justifies and encloses his existence.

But Costello endangers his own integrity when he becomes fascinated by a nightclub singer (Cathy Rosier) who mysteriously fails to identify him to the police. Costello must move quickly, for otherwise there is only one way out for a dishonoured samurai - if the police and his upset employers don't catch up with him first.

The only soundtrack to the film is provided by the caged bird in Costello's apartment, and this along wth the camera's repeated gaze on locks and closed doors complete the feel of entrapment; a Damoclean air pervades the piece. Alain

Delon as the pale and enigmatic assassin is appropriately emotionless, and helps Jean-Pierre Melville's noir-esque study become the seminal work that it is, foreshadowing, among other things, Scorsese's Taxi Driver and Walter Hill's The Driver A dark horse, but a winner.

Review by Iain Lang
Taken from EUFS Programme 1994-95