Le Samouraï

Le Samouraï ★★★★½

"Heaven knows I'm not Alain Delon". Thus goes the chorus of a song by a lesser known Norwegian pop band. Truer words were never spoken.

In the back of my mind I've always known that Le Samouraï would be right up my alley, but I've put it off for what seems like an eternity. Pushing play for the first time tonight made me sad and filled with joy at the same time. The opening is breathtaking in its minimalism. Melville's mise èn scene has Delon's Jef Costello lying in the bottom right corner of the picture, smoking. The camera stays still for what feels like an eternity, and I mean that in the most positive way imaginable. It sets the standard for what is to come, and removes any doubt whatsoever that this is anything other than a masterpiece. From here on in Jef Costello owns the picture.
Delon has always fascinated me, yet also frustrated me. I've yet to see him animated in any way, shape or form. He might be perfectly able to, but in my experience, he has yet to step out of a certain typecast.
Luckily it couldn't be a better match for Melville's fascinating portrayal of both the loner hitman, and the cop on his trail, bending rules as it fits him. The cop is the films other standout performance, from the ever reliable Francois Perier. As much as this is about Costello's icy meticulism, I got just as much satisfaction from following police work from a different area, relying on a whole other set of techniques for staking out suspects.

So much has been said and written about it, and I have no desire to just echo others. I'll end my review here, concluding with the obvious remark that Le Samouraï both inspired and defined the cinematic hitman. And that's just the way it should be.

I've left out the last half star, because I've got a sneaking suspicion this will only get better with rewatches.

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