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Le Samouraï

For fans of '60s French cinema, and fans of actor Alain Delon in particular, 1997 has been a good year for video re-releases, with this reissue of Jean-Pierre Melville's 1967 noir Le Samouraï nicely bookending the earlier release of Purple Noon. While Purple Noon is a fantastic movie, Le Samouraï is probably the more compelling of the two, if only because it's impossible to view it without picking up on its unmistakable trail of influence. Delon plays a gun-for-hire who takes on an assignment that has both the law and those who hired him on his tail. Cool to the point of being robotic, Delon portrays the quintessential heartless killer, but one of the film's greatest strengths is that it hints at hidden depths that evoke unexpected sympathy. Stylistically, Le Samouraï was clearly a major influence on John Woo and Quentin Tarantino: not because it's an ultraviolent thriller (it's not—the number of shots fired here can probably be counted on two hands), but because of its overall look, sensibility and treatment of characters. Casting all that aside, Le Samouraï is a terrific film, at once a tense thriller and a fascinating character study, and only as cold as it looks until its unforgettable final scene.


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