Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Fearful Symmetry

The man is suave, laconic and disarmingly handsome. His fedora is perfectly cocked, his trench-coat does not have single crease. He is a killer, but he follows the code of the samurai, he is Alain Delon's Jef Costello in Jean-Pierre Melville's Le Samourai.

Melville, who is known for his expertly atmospheric crime thrillers, is in top form but his slow-burn approach might be difficult for modern viewers who probably associate a lightening fast cutting style with the genre. The film is filled with precise, limited movement. This not only gives it a smooth, leisurely pace but it makes any sudden burst of activity (like Jef's showdown on the bridge) all the more resonance. The plot is ridiculously simple (Jef is duped into killing a high profile target and now the authorities and mob are after him), but Melville fills his frame with activity and buoys screen-time with procedural details. The film is so meticulous that it makes the investigation against Jef just as riveting as Jef's adventures in trying to cover his ass.
It wouldn't be the first Melville film I would recommend to newbies but it's a marvelous example of the prodigious style and atmosphere that Melville is capable of creating within his frame. Cool, baby, very cool.

1 comment:

neonspecs said...

that is some beautiful dvd cover art!