Le Samouraï

Le Samouraï ★★★★½

This lean and subdued French crime drama about a solitary and meticulous hired assassin had me hooked from the very first scenes, just as it did when I first saw it in the early 1970's. Stylish and understated, the story proceeds with long periods devoid of dialog, reminding me a bit of the opening half of Gambit, where Michael Caine is laying out the bare bones of the scam and everyone acts out his moves simply and without emotion. It is a beautiful melange of late '60's realism and '40's Film Noir, with a protagonist so cool he makes James Bond look like Jerry Lewis. While it certainly works to great effect, there are times one has to wonder whether or not there's more going on here... could this be comedy or satire in disguise? After all, we've got a protagonist who is not merely iconic, he's actually the perfect caricature of a hit man or spy. He's cold and emotionless, but more than that, he's conspicuous ... his job depends on anonymity, yet he wanders around in a raincoat with the collar turned up, hat pulled down, hands in his pockets... no matter what scene you examine, he's always the most suspicious character in the frame. Every line of dialog is predictable, almost as if he and the rest of the cast are are poking fun at the genre. Also hilarious was the bird who watches his apartment while he's away... "Some guys were here while you were gone, Jef... check behind the drapes." But in the end it doesn't matter if you see this as drama or satire or both, this film's just about perfect... a classic that deserves it's reputation and that you'll want to revisit often.