special-event-le-samourai-jan-12th“This is a great movie, an austere masterpiece, with [Alain] Delon as a cold, enigmatic contract killer who lives by a personal code of bushido. Essentially, the plot is about an alibi, yet Melville turns this into a mythical revenge story with Cathy Rosier as Delon’s black, piano-playing nemesis who might just as easily have stepped from the pages of Cocteau or Sophocles as Vogue .” – Adrian Turner, Time Out. A film much alluded to in US films, including Taxi Driver (our March 8th film). (Cert PG)
Dir: Jean-Pierre Melville 100 mins France 1967
We welcome Ann Miller of Leicester University French Department to introduce a Francophone film for the 16th time. Start time: 7.30 p.m.

Programme Notes

France 1967 100 minutes Cert. PG

Le Samouraï revolves around Jef Costello, who is a hired assassin played by Alain Delon (Rocco and His Brothers (1960), Le Cercle Rouge (1970), and Il Gattopardo/ The Leopard (1963)). Whilst he is successful as an assassin, he ends up being caught doing one of his murders, witnessed by Valérie, played by Cathy Rosier. Costello then creates a false alibi, with the help of Jane Lagrange, played by Nathalie Delon (Alain Delon’s wife). However, Costello is being tracked down by police superintendent François Périer (Nights of Cabiria (1957) and Orphée (1957)). Will Costello get away from the grasp of the Superintendent, or will the long arm of the law finally get to grips with him?

This was one of thirteen feature films directed by Jean-Pierre Melville. His other films include Army of Shadows (1969, ABCD season 07/08), Les Enfants Terribles, and Bob le Flambeur (1956, ABCD season 06/07), which was remade in 2002 by Neil Jordan as The Good Thief. Le Samouraï has been a major influence for many film directors, including Quentin Tarintino (his Reservoir Dogs (1992)), Luc Besson (Léon (1994)), Jim Jarmusch (Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (1999)), Nicolas Winding Refn (Drive (2011)), and John Woo (The Killer (1989)), who said that this is “the closest to a perfect movie that I have ever seen.”
Jef Costello – Alain Delon
The Superintendent – François Périer
Jane Lagrange – Nathalie Delon
Valérie – Cathy Rosier
Gunman – Jacques Leroy
Wiener – Michel Boisrond
Barkeeper – Robert Favart

Director – Jean-Pierre Melville
Screenplay – Jean-Pierre Melville, Georges Pellegrin and (uncredited) Joan McLeod. Based on McLeod’s novel ‘The Ronin’.
Cinematography – Henri Decaë
Original Music – François de Roubaix
Producers – Raymond Borderie, Eugène Lépicier

Le Samouraï is an engaging thriller, a fascinating character study, and a genuine work of art.” Richard Saad, Cinephile Magazine)

“The elements of the film–the killer, the cops, the underworld, the women, the code–are as familiar as the movies themselves. Melville loved 1930s Hollywood crime movies and in his own work helped develop modern film noir. There is nothing absolutely original in “Le Samourai” except for the handling of the material.” Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

“[Melville’s] style remains haunting and elegantly spare, just right for the kind of hit man who lives in silence, in bare and colorless surroundings, with a lonely caged bird. ” Janet Maslin, The New York Times

The society welcomes back Dr Ann Miller, for her 16th guest introduction. As well as being an expert on French cinema, she is also a published expert in the field of bande dessinée (French-language comic strips) and is co-author of a forthcoming book on autobiography in French comics.


“Deep, gripping, moody, stylish, cinema!”

“Gripping, with such tension. Beautifully shot and superbly acted. The finch was the star.”

“Very good indeed in all respects”

“Riveting from the start. Not convinced by the plot, but hugely enjoyable. Delon certainly has a screen presence – minimal acting but still dominated the screen.”

“Very stylish”

“Shades of Inspecteor Clouseau”

“Excellent – the best gangster film I have seen in a very long time. It was also good to see Paris in the 60’s again, unlike many such films it was possible to see it as it was.”


“Excellent film. Gripping, full of suspense, great action, secretive.”

“I have the hat and coat …”

“Enjoyed the style and the discussion.”

“A bit too much slowness to get to A …, but very gripping all the same. NOT a fascinating character.”

“Now I know where George Lazenby got it from!”

“This is certainly a case of style over substance. Whilst the film was technically brilliant, the narrative was overtly simplistic, that leaves very little merit to appreciate [it] nowadays. It’s worth a look but not worth the hype.”

“Never a dull moment!”

“Bird Oscar nomination”

“Spoilt by poor screenplay. It was always raining but he never got wet. Police would surely have put on gloves to set the equipment in his flat.”

“I could have become more engaged in the film, if I could bring myself to care about any of its characters.”

“Delon is a walking warning against lockjaw – tho’ how he’s got to 75 after all those Gauloises is a mystery!”

“Rather pedestrian (when did the CID have that amount of manpower?); and the DS security wasn’t that great!”

“Stylish, but plot full of holes. Who was more incompetent?”

“Melville was surely taking the mick! What a load of old tosh. Unprofessional killer and very ameteurish cops. It’s a bit of a pastiche of an American gangster film. I don’t think Maigret would have done it like that. Ann’s talk was the best part of the whole evening.”