Starring Alain Delon, Francois Périer and Nathalie Delon
Screenplay by Jean-Pierre Melville and Georges Pellegrin
Directed by Jean-Pierre Melville
Production year 1967
Running time 102 minutes
This super-cool existential crime thriller is the work of Jean-Pierre Melville - one of the greatest and most idiosyncratic of all post war French filmakers. Born Jean-Pierre Grumbach to an Alsatian Jewish family the director changed his name to Melville whilst fighting in the Resistance during WW2 because of his admiration for the American author of Moby Dick. After the war he kept it as his nom de plume and began making movies operating out of his own mini-studio.
He specialised in minimalist, stripped down crime dramas often heavily influenced by American gangster films of the 1930s and 40s but with their own highly distinctive visual style. He was one of the first French directors to use real locations and his reportage technique was a big influence on the French Nouvelle Vague movement that came to fore in the 1960s.
Le Samouraï is perhaps his masterpiece - it tells the story of Jef Costello - a lone hit man whose murky, violent world of assassination and revenge is governed by his intricate set of rules and rigid honour code. The film stars Alain Delon whose extraordinary good looks, stylised costume and impassive expression make for an inscrutable and fascinating performance.
The film has been highly influential on subsequent movies from 'The Driver' to 'Drive' and on such directors as John Woo and Quentin Tarantino. Jim Jarmusch paid tribute to the movie in his 1999 drama Ghost Dog and Madonna's 2012 song Beautiful Killer is a tribute both to Delon and his character in Le Samouraï.
'You are a beautiful killer
I like your silhouette when you stand on the streets
Like a samurai you can handle the heat
Makes me wanna pray for a haunted man...'