Jean-Pierre Melville’s Le Samourai, originally released in America in a chopped-up form as The Godson, is generally regarded as one of the most quintessential cool films of its era. There’s not much to it; very little dialogue (especially when we are following the main character, played by Alain Delon), a minimalist mise en scene, and a style or flair straight out of the best-of collection of noir films. But what it does have, unquestionably, can only be described as suave.
Delon plays Jef Costello, a hitman who lives in a small Parisian apartment. He lives much like the film is constructed; minimalist, with nothing in his apartment but basic furniture, a bed, and a bird in a cage as his pet. He is amoral, practically asexual, and seems to have no other associates other than his professional ones. He lives pretty much only for his job, so when one of his contracts ends up with him getting shot instead of his payment for liability reasons, he sets out to find who really hired him to set things right… professionally. Honestly, I ended this film with absolutely no notes written down for it, which as I’ve said before says a lot about the film, and it doesn’t say enough. It’s very well put together, utilizing as much noir influence as it can without fitting squarely into the genre; Delon’s raincoat and snappy rimmed hat being the most obvious example. The film, I’d imagine, must have been pretty fun to put together from an audio standpoint; every little noise and chirp seems to take on an almost paranoid significance, emphasized in the scenes where dialogue is sparse, if there at all. As for the plot, it was fairly straightforward, and definitely felt like it was ripped out of the French New Wave; Delon’s wardrobe and hat serving as a double reference here as well.
As simple as this was, it was damn enjoyable. I got through the whole thing, straight through, with no problem; a running time of under two hours helped, but what was the biggest factor was that the film was so darn cool to watch. It made me feel slick just living vicariously through Delon’s character, even with his character not being necessarily one you would want to be, given some further thought. I could really make an argument for or against this being on the list, but regardless, this is certainly one you shouldn’t feel too bad about wasting some time on. A nice little surprise; here’s hoping there’s still a few more like it.
Arbitrary Rating: 8/10