Thursday, December 08, 2005

Le Samourai

Coming from a theatre background, the things that I usually respond to, and demand from a movie are a strong narrative, interesting dialogue, and solid acting. But when you witness the art of a visual expert in storytelling , it's amazing how fast all those criteria become secondary.

Jean-Pierre Melville's Le Samourai is a visual feast for cinema fans.

Le Samourai tells the tale of Jef Costello, a lone hired assassian, who must untangle himself from the aftermath created in one of his less than perfect outings. Despite all his careful preparations, and back up plans, he is up to his neck in mounting trouble, and must use all his resources, and impressive abilities to try, and escape before it's too late.

Although, not strong in narrative, the movie does excel in it's attention to detail, and visual storytelling.

What's unique about Melville's style is that he doesn't rely on words to tell his story. He does everything visually. For instance, the first ten minutes, there is no dialogue. Just a series of seemingly small physical actions taken, that will compile into a large action, that will eventually lead to an important event.

What's also impressive is that Melville doesn't rely on a musical score to set the mood. Most of the movie takes place in an eerie silence. When you combine that with the stark ,dark, cold, look of the film, what you get is a slow simmiring pot of a movie, not really action packed, but suspenseful and thrilling.

The movie is an interesting tribute to american ganster and Japanese Samurai films. It should come to no surprise that Melville is an idol to John Woo, and Quentin Tarentino. John Woo even writes a tribute essay in the DVD booklet. I also know that Woo does an audio commentary on his other movie available from Criterion, Le cercle rourge. If you dig Le Samourai, make sure to check that one out too.

1 comment:

Lons said...

Well-written review (though I'd also recommend Melville's "Bob Le Flambeur" and "Un Flic" to "Le Samourai" fans).

I love that early scene at the mechanic's shop. No words at all. Jef just drives in and hangs around in silence as the guy changes the plates. Incredibly simple yet powerful storytelling.