Le Samouraï

Le Samouraï ★★★★½

Overtly methodical in all its depictions of seemingly routine activities, LE SAMOURAI burns slowly, confidently, and most importantly coolly. Its coolness is what cements it as so influential. Alain Delon brings to the character an impossibly hardened outlook, with a fluidity of movement and a never-smiling mien ideally. He never falters, and is thus the perfect portrayal of a samurai, years of training and experience borne into his technique and strategy.

And it's classic as well for Melville's direction; always concise and appropriate, but never showy or flamboyant. His camera has a stringent control on the viewer's perception, showing everything important, and nothing superfluous. It's masterful in its accentuation, and seemingly natural quality. It's, further, in the mood of the film. Delon's coolness extends to the entire proceedings. The investigations, chases, and conversations bubble with tension, yet are impeccably stable. It's an aura, perhaps attributable to its "French-ness", that I don't think could be easily recreated in modern cinema.

For all the spiraling of the plot, twists, and deception at hand, the protagonist hardly speaks. Here, Jeff Costello, The Samurai, becomes a beacon for the silent lead trope, articulating in an early example the extent of that character's potential effect. My favorite scenes dealt with the interrogation of Costello, including that of his alibi, and especially the scenes involving the night club staff. LE SAMOURAI'S setpieces are dark and it poses questions that'll never be answered: origins, purposes, backstory...All it explicitly gives us is its intentions regarding style: Costello is dressed like a noir detective, all trench coat, fedora, and attitude, under the rain, and the car-slicked French streets and pavement.

As a film, it's not a character study, nor does it feel devoutly attached to its plot; rather, it's like a master class in design. Of pacing, structure, score, and conceit. Regardless of the cheesy 1967 gunfire sounds, LE SAMOURAI wholly succeeds.