Le Samourai (1967)
Starring: Alain Delon (Rocco And His Brothers; Eclipse), Francois Perier (Orpheus; Nights Of Cabiria)
Directed By: Jean-Pierre Melville (Bob Le Flambeur; Les Enfants Terribles)
Overview: A perfectionist hitman who lives by a strict code similar to that of a Samurai Warrior is seen by several witnesses as he leaves the scene of a hit. What follows is our anti-hero's cool and calculated way of dealing with police, witnesses and those who hired him.
Acting: The direction of this film is legendary, they say. This is Melville's masterpiece, they say. Alain Delon was so cool that this film immortalized him, they say. I don't want to disappoint those hardcore fans out there, but I tried. I REALLY tried to like this film and I will attest that this is the best aspect. Everyone plays their part bang on, regardless of the fact that the huge-footed cabaret pianist love-interest with a tightly cropped haircut has no sex appeal whatsoever. Ugh, I'd go so far as to say 'distractingly unappealing'. How is the '12 year-old boy' look sexy, even to the French?
Cinematography: Some scenes have gorgeous storyboarding, like the lone meeting at the train-station, or the opening shot with this man lying in his bed, smoking in his lonely run-down apartment. Yes, Alain consistently poses in a contrived model stance. I'm sorry, but while I sit here writing a review trying to find excuses to up the score simply to appeal to all the critics out there who love this film, I'll have to be the voice of dissent. There's really nothing all that impressive about this, including the fedora and raincoat. Wait! The white gloves were cool.
Script: The best scene of the film for this category was the one where the cop turns over the hero's alibi's house, trying to intimidate her perfectly, explaining how a police officer must simply bend the rules from time to time. It's a smooth, suave, cool way of letting someone know they're on your shitlist. I can't think of any other instance where the dialogue served any purpose but to advance the plot. This wasn't nearly enough about character development. Yes, it's a film with long spans of wordlessness. That makes it an even better reason to have the words be more meaningful.
Plot: Sadly the title "Criterion Collection" emblazoned across the cover served to introduce a certain expectation from this viewing. Namely, I expected to see something good and cool, a story about a modern-day samurai with a deep honourable streak, shown through a series of intense character-building moments, including assasinations. Instead we're stuck watching a hitman try to squirm out of a police investigation. We learn too much of a man's professionally quick reflexes rather than fully exploring a zealous undercurrent of duty. It's just a cop-chase film, don't try telling me it's all cerebral with subtext. I get it, and it didn't move me whatsoever.
Mood: "A razor-sharp cocktail of 1940s American gangster cinema and 1960s French pop culture - with a liberal dose of Japanese lone-warrior mythology... defines cool".
Overall Rating: 70% (Uh, More Like A Ronin Actually, Not To Split Hairs)
Aftertaste: I know it's not about 'Samurai' as in Job Description, but Samurai as in the Warrior's Code and Way of Life, fine, but the code of "You Live To Die" does not mean going out of your way to be suicidally stupid. As a hitman, a killer, when someone gets a perfect look at you, you kill them, not woo them, problem over. You get rid of ALL the evidence, including the coat and hat you wore while doing the deed. You don't wear it out everyday even though you know you're being tailed. It's not armour for God's sake, ditch it. I feel truly bad that I didn't like this movie to the degree everyone else does, but I can't help it. Could you please do me a favour and explain to my why this is so good? I promise to listen!