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Le Samourai (Criterion Collection)

Alain Delon , Nathalie Delon , Jean-Pierre Melville    PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)   DVD
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
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Product Description

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Alain Delon is the coolest killer to hit the screen, a film noir loner for the modern era, in Jean-Pierre Melville's austere 1967 French crime classic. Delon's impassive hit man, Jef Costello, is the ultimate professional in an alienated world of glass and metal. On his latest contract, however, he lets a witness live--a charming jazz pianist, Valerie (Cathy Rosier), who neglects to identify him in the police lineup. When Costello survives an assassination attempt by his employers, he carefully plots his next moves as cops and criminals close in and he prepares for one last job. Melville meticulously details every move by Costello and the police in fascinating wordless sequences, from Costello's preparations for his first hit to the cops' exhaustive efforts to tail Jef as he lines up his last; and his measured pace creates an otherworldly ambiance, an uneasy calm on the verge of shattering. Costello remains a cipher, a zen killer whose façade begins to crack as the world seems to be collapsing in on him, exposing the wound-up psyche hidden behind his blank face. Melville rethinks film noir in modern terms, as an existential crime drama in soft, somber color and sleek images (courtesy of cinematographer extraordinaire Henri Decaë). Le Samouraï inspired two pseudo-remakes, Walter Hill's Driver and John Woo's Killer, but neither film comes close to the compelling austerity and meticulous detail of Melville's cult masterpiece. --Sean Axmaker

Product Description

In a career-defining performance, Alain Delon plays blue-eyed Jef Costello, a fedora- and trench-coat-wearing contract killer with samurai instincts. When Jef assassinates a nightclub owner, he finds himself confronted by a series of witnesses, who drop his perfect world into the hands of a persistent police investigator and Jef’s shadowy employer, both of whom are determined to put an end to the smooth criminal. A razor-sharp cocktail of 1940s American gangster cinema and 1960s French pop culture—with a liberal dose of Japanese lone-warrior mythology—maverick director Jean-Pierre Melville’s masterpiece Le samouraï defines cool.

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Exceptional Work-of-art May 9 2011
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
A real masterpiece! Mr. Melville managed very well to show and prove his exceptional talent in this 1967 production. Everything about this "film-noir" is outstanding: Great story line, remarkable casting, wonderful acting, superb cinematography... The events take place within a period of less then three days and the focus of the film is a highly narcissistic contract killer. His "cool" demeanor and his approach to his work very well depicted. The secondary characters of the story are also well-chosen and they do their parts nicely.

In addition, the "Special Features" of this Criterion print are invaluable; I think they desrve to be watched --after the film is viewed of course...
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5.0 out of 5 stars a brilliant film June 6 2004
By A Customer
Format:VHS Tape
Cool, austere and haunting - this is the real deal - a genuine French masterpiece.
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4.0 out of 5 stars almost a masterpiece Nov. 7 2002
By Haseeb
Format:VHS Tape
Jef Costello is a hired assasin who makes somewhat of a blunder on one of his jobs. He allows a witness to clearly see him and later gets arrested. For some strange reason, the person who clearly saw him leaving the scene of the crime refuses to identify him in a police line up. Jef also makes up an elaborate alibi to "prove" that he wasn't at the crime scene when the murder occured. After the police release him, things get a bit complicated because Jef has a weakness for a woman piano player and the people who hired him turn on him.
The main character makes this a very good film, but just doesn't come across as convincing as some of the other assasins I've seen on film.
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5 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Bushido Lite July 8 2004
Format:VHS Tape
This film has the indelible reputation of being a classic French film Noir; as being the inspiration for John Woo's THE KILLER, and Jim Jarmusch's GHOST DOG, and certainly influenced Jean Reno in THE PROFESSIONAL. It, in turn, was most certainly influenced by Alan Ladd's premiere role as "Raven" in THIS GUN FOR HIRE. Director Jean-Pierre Melville was a veteran of several French crime films. This one was easily his best. He died six years later. It was released in America in 1972 under the title, THE GODSON.
This is a very dark tale of a meticulous assassin living very secluded and alone in a rundown apartment house; inconspicuous, hiding in plain sight, a Spartan existance, a monk's simplicity and pure dedication to vocational choice. There is only one spark of life in the greyness of his domicile...a small bird in a dirty cage. This is a color film, but most of it is shot in deep shadows, and at night; all gray and black imagery. And in that sense, it does have a real Noir feel to it.
This film has been so well received, and is held in such high esteem, somehow I, as a first time viewer, expected more from it. The lexicon of assassin crime films is lengthy, so one longed to see something new, fresh, and original; something connected to samurai or yakuza roots. There was the establishment of a pervading sense of doom, of fatalistic events, as we watched Alain Delon as Jef Costello maneuvering himself into tragedy.
But for me, the primary weakness of this film was Delon himself. His matinee good looks, his Bogart-like raincoat, his smooth short brimmed fedora, his strained attempts at coolness...all seemed wrong, and off-center. I needed to see toughness, not the stiffness and effeminate posing. I needed to see Yves Montand or Gerard Depardieu as Costello.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.4 out of 5 stars  87 reviews
77 of 79 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful, Brilliant, Breathtaking! March 12 2001
By "jcray18" - Published on Amazon.com
Format:VHS Tape
There are very few movies in the history of the cinema that are as perfect as Jean-Pierre Melville's "Le Samourai". "Le Samourai" is without question my favorite movie of all-time, and one of the best ever made. It's a movie that isn't widely seen, and is never shown on TV, however, it has had a tremendous influence and inspiration for many filmmakers ever since. "Le Samourai" itself was inspired by the film noirs of the 40s and 50s, especially "This Gun for Hire"(1942) which includes a performance by Alan Ladd as a similar loner hired killer character as Alain Delon's (Jef Costello). I love this movie for too many reasons to mention. First of all, the direction by Melville, the beautifully dark cinematography by Henri Decae, the writing, the editing, etc. Also, the performances are all great especially Alain Delon, who gives the performance of a lifetime, it's absolutely one of the greatest performances ever captured on film. There are too many beautiful moments in the movie to mention, and I won't mention them as to not ruin it for anyone who hasn't seen the movie. One moment in particular is stunning when Delon, who plays a hired killer (Jef Costello), nurses a gun-shot wound to his arm, there's not a false moment in the entire movie. Another is after he steals a car as he drives he stops for a moment as another car with a woman in it stops next to his car and they both turn briefly to look at each other, it's done with a subtle, flawless, breathtaking beauty rarely captured on film. I own a VHS copy of "Le Samourai" which I have almost completely worn out, so I hope that Criterion or some merciful DVD company out there produces a quality DVD of this important masterpiece as soon as possible. I would like to think that amongst the "Gladiators", "Independence Day" and "American Pie" DVDs, they could include a quality DVD of "Le Samourai" for the sake of humble DVD consumers who love great movies. In all, I have to say that I need to watch this movie repeated times so I can enjoy it and be inspired, as well as to remind myself that movies can be important and meaningful. When I see all of the garbage that is shoved out onto movie screens nowadays, it's downright depressing and sometimes demoralizing, so it's nice to be able to put on "Le Samourai", or another great movie of the past, and remember what movies could be and should be!
62 of 67 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a masterful thriller Sept. 6 2000
By Alejandra Vernon - Published on Amazon.com
Format:VHS Tape
This superb film is gripping and fascinating from start to finish. Alain Delon is extraordinary...his seemingly cool, blank face has so much pain in the eyes, and his hands ! Watch his hands act ! The expressiveness in them throughout the film is riveting.
I love the way he looks at the bird for clues as to what has transpired in his apartment...this is some of the subtlest and best acting you'll ever see. It's a work of art.
The sepia and dark grey tones of the cinematography are exquisite. Everything looks damp, cold, and hard, and the editing is dazzling. This is a brilliant film from every aspect. If you like noir thrillers, don't miss it.
38 of 43 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Melville's Gangster Thriller - A Condensed Purification of Cinematic Virtuosity Nov. 24 2005
By Kim Anehall - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
The wheel of life circles towards a predictable conclusion, as does Jean-Pierre Melville's cinematic masterpiece Le Samouraï. The film emits a strongly inevitable atmosphere, yet the silence, dualistic, and enigmatic narrative leaves the audience ambiguously flabbergasted far after its initial screening. The serenity that surrounds the protagonist cerebrally submerges the audience into a world where opposites coincide in an illusionary moment. It is in this moment where the thoughts conceptualize into a coherent piece of alternative reality and offer support to the power of suggestion. The blending of the fictitiously thoughtful imagination and the reality on the screen leaves the audience with a strong sense of dualism. Like Yin and Yang, the notion is further developed through the protagonist Jef Costello (Alain Delon) who peacefully approaches his violent profession, as a hit man. He is the embodiment of mind and body converging towards a moment of perfection, as he seeks his own path, a path similar to the samurai - the way of Bushido.

The contrasts within Jef and his environment sharply emerge in the lengthy initial scene where he rests on a bed while staring into the ceiling. Not much is in motion besides him lighting a cigarette, a canary singing in a cage, and cigarette smoke lingering in midair while the sounds of vehicles passing outside informs the audience about the continuance of existence outside. A sparsely furnished and decorated room with aged and peeling wallpaper demonstrates his humbleness, as he pays no attention to vanity or self-importance. Thoughtfully, perhaps, most likely, Jef might be seeking the greater meaning in life. The opening scene symbolically suggests that while people outside are busy scurrying back and forth in their cars to uphold a way of life governed by others' need of monetary means. Unlike the majority of the world, Jef seeks contemplative solitude, as a small tidbit of Bushido emerges on the screen stating, "There is not greater solitude than that of the samurai, unless it is that of the tiger in the jungle...perhaps..."

Whenever Jef leaves his simple apartment, he dresses himself in an exact and detailed manner, but not for narcissistic purpose. Instead, it seems as if he is preparing for battle, the beige trench coat and gray hat hint towards the idea of a samurai's armor and helmet. Every minor facet seems to be carefully calculated, as he is about to perform his profession to perfection. Words are meaningless. It is only the act of his task that matters while he carry's out his masters order with a deep sense of loyalty and respect. Despite the bloody purpose of his task, he approaches it with a great sense of benevolence and honesty to those who help him. He is to the point without intention of squandering time, yet he is adaptable to the changes around. Precision and flawlessness are also essential to the task of killing a nightclub owner, as he respects his target. To visually display his respect to the person he is about to kill he dresses in white gloves while also informing the marked man that he is about to die. Analogously Jef approaches his task to that of a samurai who would slash his sword through flesh without leaving any cutting mark until the limb slowly drift apart due to gravity.

Methodically, Melville transcends the American gangster cinema into an extraordinary combination of French New Wave and traditional Bushido that leaves the audience a timeless piece of cinematic brilliance. The story continues to unfold in, as mentioned before, a predictable manner when it turns into a cat and mouse game between Jef and the law enforcement. The police arrest Jef, but must release him due to lack of evidence and as one of the witnesses falsely acquits him for unknown reasons. Police inspector (Francois Perier), who strongly suspects Jef despite his watertight alibi, leads the investigation and he continues to pursue Jef. Meanwhile, Jef's criminal employer expects that he ratted them out in order to be released. This too will have consequences, as they try to have him killed before the police know too much. However, those who know Jef are aware that it is against his Bushido to squeal on superiors due to his respect and loyalty.

Throughout the film the audience will be informed of the date and time, which suggests the importance of time. The notion of seizing the day, and that time alive is overwhelming. It also offers the audience to ponder life's final solution, which often ends with an abrupt stop of the heart to experience another beat. The fear of death often devastates people's ability to fully live while samurai often contemplate the moment of death, as the moment of perfection. It is a moment where two opposites unite, as the circle of life has gone full circle from no life to life and back to no life. The use of Bushido accentuates this notion, as it draws its philosophical concepts from Buddhism, Zen, Confucianism, and Shintoism. Buddhism provides the samurai of the belief of reincarnation, which strengthens their courage and lowers the guard from fear of death while life allows them to contemplate the wheel of life. In the end, Melville presents the importance of the here and now through his anti-heroic masterpiece Le Samouraï focusing on the moment and the actions that set life in motion.

Le Samouraï offers a fascinating cinematic experience on the surface, but it is when the audience begins to reflect over the film and its depiction where Melville's cinematic gift reveals itself. The film reads like a painting, a different interpretation for each viewer. Over time the accumulation of the viewer's experiences will help decipher the film and allow the viewer to uncover their own valuable lessons. Thus, time will allow for the experience to grow with contemplation, and in time Le Samouraï will change with the accumulation of experiences to a condensed purification of cinematic virtuosity.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Melville 's classic Film Noir masterpiece! Sept. 14 2005
By Hiram Gomez Pardo - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
The fertile imagination and superb direction of this unusual and sometimes forgotten filmmaker for most audiences, find the perfect intersection of a killer who lives according Bushido codes, moving continuously around Paris with his fedora hiding his eyes. There will be a mythical revenge behind.

Unexplainably, Jean Pierre Melville is a relatively not so well known in this side of the Atlantic. He possessed that sixth sense so demanded in an original filmmaker. He influenced and at the meantime was influenced by the Noir genre in the sixties.

But his whole work conforms one of the most astonishing personalities in the French Cinema as well as in the World.

From his first Opus; the wonderful, poetic and expressive film "The silence of the sea", passing by "Bob le flambeur" or his famous "Army of shadows", Melville has received a curious and cynical nickname: "The most famous French Director in USA and the most North American filmmaker in France."

Go for this singular and original film. Absolutely electrifying!
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Atmosphere, atmosphere, atmosphere! May 13 2005
By Uncle Borges - Published on Amazon.com
Format:VHS Tape
A cool, chic, atmospheric Noir classic that stands the test of time. Has a huge nostalgia appeal as it offers a window into a far happier, livelier Paris before the first encroachments of multicultural devastation. The soundrack is phenomenal and Melville's film making artistry is unimpeachable and cannot be compared to some of the entusiastic epigones some reviewers mention. The entire opening sequence, to the point when Jeff Costello breaks into a parked Citroen, rankjs among the finest few in cinema history. Basically, "Le Samourai" is Melville's tribute to the American gangster cinema of the 40's and 50's and one in which, aesthetically and artistically, the student surpassed his idols.
Jean-Pierre Melville (1917-1973) was at his peak in late 60's when besides Le Samourai, he made two amazing nail-baiting thrillers "L'Armee Des Ombres" (1969) and "Le Cercle Rouge" (1970)...
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