In my warm up for my upcoming Seven Days of French New Wave I wanted to catch up with the French filmmakers that made films during the Nouvelle Vague years that weren't a part of it or considered as New Wavers. Jean-Pierre Melville has been very influential on the "auteurs" of the French New Wave, with his neo-noirs starring impassive leading characters wearing trenchcoats and hats. Melville's presence in the wave was resented as the presence of a big brother for all the young directors like Truffaut, Godard, Rohmer, etc. He even made a famous cameo in Godard's À bout de souffle.
Le samouraï is the first Melville film I've ever seen, the fact that he wasn't a part of the New Wave was probably one of the reasons why I didn't watched any of his films before. Well, now I know I should have looked up Melville before. This 1967 release is an instant classic, the slow paced action, the dead pan face of Alain Delon's Jef Costello the Samurai theming and the wonderful simple but efficient cinematography took me 30 seconds into the film to know I would fall in love with this film.
Having read the Bushido many years ago, when I first saw Akira Kurosawa's Rashomon, I completely understood the main character and the title: Le samouraï (The samurai). With only one reference to the title in the openning of it, Jef Costello is literally a samurai, always dressed like if it was the most important day of his life, with a clean trench coat, a well worn hat, always clean shaven and even when he gets hurt he'll take care properly of himself and clean his wounds himself. His final mission was a suicidal one an aspect of the Bushido that is more than central is the fact that the samurai must die in a valiant way by his enemies or by a clean suicide.