There is no solitude greater than a samurai's, unless perhaps that of a tiger in the jungle

Le Samouraï (The Samurai) was made in 1967 by Jean-Pierre Melville, starred Alain Delon and begins with the quote above - supposedly from the Buddhist "Book of Bushido". But that book doesn't exist, and the quote was made up by Melville.

Nonetheless it opens Melville's most influential film. John Woo calls it a near perfect movie. Indeed, his The Killer is called a remake of Le Samouraï by the imdb; Jim Jarmusch's Ghost Dog also as a similar plot. Seeing their work, it is quite obvious such directors as Quentin Tarantino or Brian de Palma have seen the movie, and enjoyed it, too.

At first glance, the professional assassin played by the charismatic Delon is the epitome of cool. The classic film noir outfit of hat and trenchcoat looks perhaps better on him than on Humphrey Bogart. He seems absolutely detached from the underground world he lives in; he is nearly silent througout the movie. Indeed, its first few minutes are completely silent as he prepares his next hit, dressing, stealing a car, having its ID changed, getting a new gun. He is extremely professional; his crime is perfectly prepared. He gets two perfect alibis, one from a couple of poker partner, and the other from his mistress - he has of course no problems seducing them - and her husband.

And everything would have gone well if not for the club's lady pianist, a beautiful Malgache that sees him as he leaves the room where he has killed. The police arrests him, along with 400 other men wearing a similar outfit. However, the pianist decides not to recognise him. His alibi is rock-solid and the police has to let him go free. The inspector is convinced however of Delon's guilt ; he has his room booby trapped, and orders that he should be tailed. At the same time, the people who hired Delon decide to double-cross him, and to have him killed - to make sure he doesn't rat out. But Delon is so good he is able to escape, fleeing through the Paris Metro despite being tailed by dozens of police agents, as he looks for his former boss before the later can kill him

But beyond the cool appearance of the hero, it is very clear this "Samurai" is leading a lonely life, alienated from the world, trapped like the bird he keeps in a cage. His world, like the movie, is extremely dry. There is no unnecessary feature in either, and while it makes a great film, it promises a sad life. As the opening quote points out, the Samurai is lonely; his thoughts are centered around death. He is an existentialist hero to whom life has no real meaning apart from doing his job to perfection.

Apart from being too slow at times, the movie also does its job to perfection. The frame is dominated by the blue and grey colours; the soundtrack is nearly minimalist; the plot, far from the complexities of some films noirs, goes straight to the point. Jean-Pierre Melville has assimilated much of the classic era of film noir; this movie marks the beginning of the modern era of the genre.

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