Quick-Thoughts, Again: Jean-Pierre Melville’s Le Samouraï (1967)

Screened at The Frida Cinema • 2nd Viewing • Warning: Spoilers Ahead

“I like it when you come around, because you need me.”

The first time Jef hijacks a car he is seen visibly composed, rhythmically trialing through his ring of keys until the right one fits. Perhaps it’s because this job is just a job to him, and means nothing beyond another means for payment. 

He is on his way to kill somebody.

The last time Jef hijacks a car he is seen visibly timid, anxiously trialing through that same ring of keys until the right one fits. Perhaps it’s because this is the first time Jef feels as if he actually has something to lose. His routine has been compromised so now he must independently decide and act on how to make honorable of the dilemma given the circumstances. 

He is on his way to kill nobody but himself.

I like to think that Le Samouraï left open these distinct gaps of intentional character ambiguities for other artists to recreate its plot and fill them in with their own personal grasp on the situation. The Conversation (1974), Taxi Driver (1976), Ghost Dog (1999), Drive (2011), and as the list goes on through over fifty years of film canon the story begins to brace with these other stories, and this figure of protagonist, even perhaps a reality for many individuals, begins to flesh-out as well for us to better understand its possibilities. Melville has handed down to every inspiring narrative writer that watches this their own pen and notepad, enrolling them as detectives to try solving this case with each viewing. 

Stuck in a cage waiting for death. Your time will come and when it does, you will have control like no other despite it being destiny. A bit dark. A bit tragic. But at the same time, a bit wholesome?

Verdict: A

All-Time Favorites, Jean-Pierre Melville Ranked, My Original Article on Le Samouraï

“Le Samouraï” is now available to stream on The Criterion Channel and HBO Max.”

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