Thursday, June 23, 2011

Le Samourai

Netflix sez... 1967 PG 105 minutes
A little bit gangster film, a little bit samurai flick, this 1960s French masterpiece from Jean-Pierre Melville introduces the memorable anti-hero Jef Costello (Alain Delon), a contract killer with the instincts of a Japanese warrior and the features of Adonis. After offing a nightclub owner, Costello has two big problems: his double-crossing employer, who now wants him dead, and the dogged police investigator who's determined to rein him in.

The 73rd Virgin sez...
One of Ebert's "Great Movies", and I guess it was - in 1967. I'm sure it can be called great in the sense that it inspired so many others, but gee, it seems dull and dated. Any movie fan will see it's fingerprints all over their favorite anti-hero opus. The Conversation, The French Connection, Bullitt, No Country For Old Men, etc, are all it's children and are all it's superiors. Hell, even John Boorman's "Point Blank" is better - and from the same year.

I don't doubt that the way the pistol magically appears in the assassin's hand when a moment before his hands were in his pockets was considered high art or high satire, but now it just looks high stupid and out of date. The best features are outside the main storyline which is jumbled and almost inept. The chase through the subway, the bugging of his apartment (done with no dialog and convincing crispness), the panicky pet bird, the rapid license plate changeout, etc. are all nifty set pieces that made me wish there was more to care about.

In the end I didn't care whether he finished his job or not - and I don't think the endangered piano player cared either - and it seems like she might have. Worth seeing for the set pieces and the moments of recognition from dozens of other movies. But not very edifying or entertaining on it's own. Felt like homework.

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