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Le Samourai (Criterion)
DVD disk
04.13.2006 By: Matt Hosack
Le Samourai (Criterion) order
Director:
Jean-Pierre Melville

Actors:
Alain Delon
François Périer
Nathalie Delon

Rating:
Movie:
Extras:
Overall:

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WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
The Criterion Collection presents the perfect film noir. LE SAMOURAÏ thrusts the viewer into a surrealistic world that exists somewhere between France and a graphic novel. Against this backdrop, the ultimate noir tale unfolds following a calculating hitman, Jef Costello played by screen legend Alain Delon. Jef has just carried out a perfect assassination, but his boss wants him dead and the ruthless police scour France for a killer. With the cards stacked against him, he has one appointment left – with death! Released in 1967, LE SAMOURAÏ remains one of the coolest films ever made and a movie that inspired the likes of John Woo and Quentin Tarantino.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
I’m a major film buff, but I had neither seen nor heard of LE SAMOURAÏ till it was released by Criterion. My ass was blown away! The entire film is mesmerizing as director Jean-Pierre Melville sucks you in from the first frame to the last. It’s the kind of film noir that a fan dreams of but never becomes a reality till now. As my buddy says, “You’ll buy the whole seat, but you’ll only need the edge.” Alain Delon literally inhabits his character. He is both handsome and deadly. His gaze speaks volumes about his character and what he is thinking. Jef is the idealistic assassin. In fact, Jef is so cool, that Melville only gave him a few lines in the entire movie, much like Leone did with Eastwood in THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY.

This film is full of style. The police dress in suits, the ladies have gorgeous 60’s schwag, and Jef wears the ultimate suit and fedora along with trench coat. Seriously, if you’re a man, you’ll run out and buy this get up after seeing this film! John Woo did. Speaking of Woo, THE KILLER is a direct adaptation of this film. Subtle symbolism abounds in there too such as Jef’s various rituals and his preparation to meet death. Melville also plays with the ideas of color. He wanted to shoot a black and white film in color. The result is astounding as we see lots of high contrast. Jef wears a black suit and white gloves when he’s killing someone. I have to also mention the minimalist dialogue that when delivered, rocked! The first line consists of “Q: Who are you? What do you want? A: To kill you.” If any of this sounds cool to you, run out and buy this now!
THE EXTRAS
The Criterion brand is known for producing some of the best supplements around. While this disc is particularly sparse, what is here is pretty good. Included in the artful DVD case is a 29 page booklet that is both beautiful to look at and engaging to read. I particularly enjoyed John Woo’s essay.

Video Interviews with Jean-Pierre Melville and historians Rui Nogueira and Ginette Vincendeau >> 30 min >After watching this film, I wanted to know everything there is to know about Melville and this was great. Here you learn about Melville from Melville and others. He was a rogue French underground director. Cool.

The Lineup >> 24 min > These are stock interviews from back in the day in France where we get bits from Melville, a dashing Delon, and other members. It’s a nice inclusion, if only to see what programming was like back then.
FINAL DIAGNOSIS
LE SAMOURAÏ is one of the finest films in its genre. It’s chock full of little details, samurai sentiments, and a bird that can warn its master. Jef is a film icon through and through and Alain Delon couldn’t be any cooler. The fact that it is part of the Criterion Collection only adds to the film’s value. The DVD presentation is enviable and that’s what we’re all about! A must.

Props 2 > Alain Delon for embodying such a great character. Jean-Pierre Melville for his master direction. The Criterion Collection for doing what they do and continually introducing solid works that sometimes miss the public eye.

Final D >> A MUST BUY for any self-respecting film buff, especially fans of film noir.
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