Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Le Samourai

There is something about a calm, collected and methodical protagonist that seems to be so much more masculine than the brash, gung-ho, action star. To me the ability to predict and control a situation so that things go your way with minimal amount of effort is hands down cooler then being able to simply brute force your way to your goals. It might be engineer in me that finds the efficiency of the actions taken by these characters so appealing. Almost the opposite is the appreciation of the elegance they have in their interactions with other characters.

Jef Costello, the main character in Jean Pierre Melville's 1967 crime thriller Le Samourai is a prime example of an intelligent and determined character. The movie centers around his attempt to escape both the arm of the law and the people that hired him after he carries out a hit on a local nightclub owner. The police pursue Costello attempting to collect enough evidence to pint he murder on him, while his former employers engaged that he allowed him self to be brought in by the police try and silence him to protect themselves. Costello must juggle the task of avoiding the police while trying to find the man who hired him. Of course there are two different women that he becomes involved with that further complicate things.

Costello remains enigmatic throughout the entire film. His dialogue is extremely minimal, the film never makes mention or explanation of his past, and his interactions with characters contain little emotion. He lives in a barren cramped apartment which he shares with two birds who occupy a small cage in the center of the room. He continually wears the same suit, coat, and hat for the entire movie. It is easy to see the influence Costello had on characters such as Leon in The Professional and Forest Whitaker character in Ghost Dog.

The style of the movie is impeccable. Its amazing how well most of the scenes, dialogue, and wardrobe have aged. Costello's jacket and hat combo could easily be found in any GQ ad. Some of the technology used to track Costello is kind of laughable now but doesn't detract form the film. Much of the movie is so well done it almost seems like a re-make of a classic film, or a modern film set in the late 1960's. It is kind of funny that the most dated thing in the entire movie is the home of Valerie, the pianist. The home is intended to be that of someone who is living a life of luxury, with the most modern and expensive furniture that was available at the time. Unfortunately now it comes off with almost an Austin Powers hilarity to it, with ridiculous late 70's color schemes, heavy on the gold and white, all sorts of bulbous plastic creations are used to decorate the rooms, and the lighting gives it an almost space station feel. It's interesting that the scene that was probably the most modern when the film was made, has aged the worse.

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