Le Samouraï

Le Samouraï ★★★★★

Film 45 of The December Project

Great ways to be very self-conscious without even leaving the house, #121: review this film on this site.

Le Samourai doesn't look so much like cool as a stealthy deconstruction of cool.
Jeff Costello walks not with the relaxed confidence of someone secure in his own power, but with nerviness – a controlled, athletic nerviness - a man who doesn't really want to be where he is, doesn't want to be seen (and not just by the witnesses to his hits).

The guy who hired him says he's a really good hitman; presumably he has been until recently, but we don't see it. His efficiency is crumbling as his subconscious rebels against his detached and periodically brutal existence. For one, habitual use of a silencer would fit his persona perfectly, but no, he kills with inadvisable noise.
Little but the looks in his eyes betray the feeling human still trapped somewhere inside, a liquid melancholy as he drives away from his flat at the beginning, later becoming a blank thousand-yard stare; only very late is stress really visible. This is astonishing acting: not even just the face, it's only the eyes.
The little caged finch (for what can make someone who's so deliberately alone seem more human than keeping a pet?) rattles around, never let out to fly, its agitation growing, losing its feathers as Costello loses more and more of the control he needs.

To paraphrase many others, it's a numb sort of cool, all monochrome. Vitally, Costello isn't trying to look iconic, he's just being himself. He never practices. But he's shot shooting people in a way that creates a good silhouette, not one which would give a cleaner shot to the head - this puzzled me.

For a film that's said to be all about style, and whose style is so widely copied by less intelligent movies, it seems actually to be saying that style (or having a code - or a hero like Costello) doesn't mean anything else: it doesn't make you good at what you do, it doesn't make you happy, it doesn't by itself make you friends.

This was an amazing portrait of one character, and much less hard work than I expected. The sparse dialogue made it easy, almost restful, to watch after very little sleep but it was always mesmerisingly tense.

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