Le Samouraï

Le Samouraï ★★★★★

Le Samourai is close to perfection. It combines stylish direction, an intelligent script, first-rate performances, and overpowering atmosphere into one of the most tense and absorbing thrillers ever to reach the screen. In trying to identify a film with a similar impact, I'm left grasping at thin air -- nothing quite like it exists in the annals of motion picture history, even when considering the work of Alfred Hitchcock.

Melville is meticulous in his direction, just as Costello is in his actions. There is great detail paid to the actions of Costello leading up to the hit, from stealing a car while trying a number of keys, placing those that do not work in a perfect line on the seat beside him, to his alibi with a woman (played by Delon's real life wife) who says she does not love him to the police, but we get the feeling she does indeed. There are moments of silent comedy that you could almost miss: The men riding with Costello on the way to the police station, none of whom look anything like the description, some old and decrepit; there is a scene in which Jef opens his cupboard and we see on the top of it bottles of water and packs of cigarettes lined up perfectly. None of this is laugh out loud funny, but incredibly clever and lets you know that Melville knows exactly how Costello should be.

Le Samourai is a classic, filled with pitch perfect performances and is the inspiration for a number of modern day films. John Woo has called it an absolutely perfect film, and he is likely right. It is a meticulously developed project, with virtually no flaws. It's probably the best film about hit men ever made, which is a narrow classification of this film, because it is more than just the story of a hit-man.

AP

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