October 20th, 2011: Le Samourai (1967)

Cast and Crew:  Francois Perier, Nathalie Delon

What It’s About: Hit man Jef Costello (Alain Delon) kills a nightclub owner, but singer Valerie (Cathy Rosier) catches him in the act.  Soon the mobsters who hired him are trying to kill him and the police are closing in.  Can Jef find a way out of this trap?

Why Watch it Today?: The great French crime filmmaker, Jean-Pierre Melville, was born today in 1917.  Like his spiritual younger siblings that made up the French New Wave, Melville adored American crime movies of the 1930s and 1940s and made the images and themes of those films his own.  Unlike directors like Jean Luc Godard, however, Melville’s films were not send-ups of American crime films with young French actors playing at being Bogart; Melville’s films are the real deal, fully functional (and excellent) gangster, heist, hit man, and war flicks.  Le Samourai is one of his best (and most influential), a tight character study of the title character, with three great set pieces:  the hits that open and close the movie, all detailed in meticulous fashion, and a lengthy pursuit of Jef by the police that starts in the streets and goes into the subway.

Where to Get It:  Netflix (Rental); Amazon-buy the film or the cologne!

French trailer, sans subtitles; best I could do:

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