Le Samouraï

Le Samouraï ★★★★½

Film Number 20 on PinHeadLarry145's 30 Days 30 Countries Film Challenge!

France, 1967

That was almost a lethal dose of cool. The raincoat and hat clad hitman at the center of Le Samourai is a smooth talking, deliberately paced isolationist with a stone face and piercing eyes that are always looking towards his next contract hit. The hitman, Jef Costello, has all the qualities of a noir protagonist; quiet, brooding, smoking a cigarette, walking in the rain and living in the shadows. But this noir protagonist walks straight out of the 40's and into the 60's French New Wave film movement.

Jef is a man of straight edges. His sharp downturned eyebrows, the lines on his coat and the perpetually straight brim of his hat imply that he is a stern man with old traditions and ideals even before he speaks. Jef lives by an ancient code in this modern age and has an undying commitment to his job and his lonely lifestyle. His dialogue and actions in the film reinforce this idea to the extreme. Jef Costello is one cool son of a bitch, and this stylish film is a gem of French cinema. The story involves our handsome and relatable hitman as we see a glimpse of his life through a window of amazing lighting and sharp stylish edges. Jef's latest hit was kind of a botched job. We expect him to perform hits flawlessly and with cold calculation, and he probably does. But this one gets fucked. He walks into a club and kills a man in back. As he is leaving he numbs into a piano player who looks directly into his eyes and face. And as he leaves quickly and rather suspiciously, he makes eye contact with virtually everyone in the club. It was only a matter of time before the police haul him in for questioning.

The first half hour of the film is a very tense and nerve wracking questioning scene that threatens to derail Jef's life. How he managed to keep a straight face and stick to his story just adds to the enigmatic character. The plot takes many turns and involves Jef's life becoming increasingly worse by the minute. The cool hitman tries his best to outrun the law and his employers and honor his mistakes. The end is particularly satisfying and somehow managed to make Jef Costello even fucking cooler. The whole film is a stylish love letter to crime films and noir in general. It's a film with many shadows, opening and closing doors, shots that glide from room to room and jazzy visuals. It's also got some existential and isolationist themes and is essentially one big display of samurai-like honor. It's no surprise that this film inspired Ghost Dog. (one of my favorites)

Looking back at everything I just typed, I feel pretty silly. My words did absolutely no justice for this film. It's just so damn cool. And as sharp as a stiletto. Surprising as a gunshot. If you are a fan of noir, French cinema and crime films in general, let Jef Costello and legendary film maker Jean-Pierre Melville take you on an adventure.

I bet this film will turn you into a smoker or contract killer. Or both.

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