What can you say when you read it could be one of the most influential films to a monster amount of classic directors from the likes of Tarantino, Coppola, Jim Jarmusch, Coen Brothers, Scorsese, Nicolas Winding Refn to name but a few, and you realise you didn’t even know it existed. So after a punishing few hour session of flaying myself whilst slowly headbutting the wall to teach myself a well earned lesson I can now say I have seen it, and by god man, it’s a goody.
Right from the opening scene within the dark living room we meet our hero laid out on a couch, smoking and contemplating. Through the curtains, the framed windows show the rain pouring and trickling down the glass outside. The rain noise is accompanied by the bleeping sound of a tweeting bullfinch sat inside a wire bird cage, taking up center stage of the room.
On the screen the words to a fictional quote from The Book Of Bushido appear giving meaning to this thoughtful opening scene.
“There is no greater solitude than that of the samurai, unless it is that of the tiger in the jungle……perhaps…”
Silence is the key here, ten beautiful minutes of no dialogue. Watching patiently, transfixed by the movements through the dark and moody back streets of Paris. What is this guy up to?
Alain Delon plays an ultra cool hitman by the name of Jef Costello. A dark, brooding moody character, always looking, constantly thinking, calmly making this next move like a chess player. He has the perfect plan, the perfect alibi. What could possibly go wrong?
Other players involved in the story are two very beautiful women, both ladies of the night. One working from home, Jane Lagrange (actually Alain’s wife Nathalie Delon) and the other a jazz pianist at a nightclub, Valerie played by Cathy Rosier.
Not making things easy for our hitman is Le Commissaire police chief François Périer. An aging experienced detective who knows how to use all his talents to try and nab Jef Costello. Undercover chases, surveillance, bugging, plus throw in some gangsters and car stealing.
This is a breathtaking gorgeous film, every scene is exquisitely framed, the slow pace is perfect, the leading man nails the moody calculating hitman and the old 60’s Paris backdrop is wonderful. If like me and you haven’t seen this, I can’t recommend enough. Get on it.
Written and directed by Jean-Pierre Melville, who I see is a master of this genre, I am in the lucky position of having a whole heap of amazing films to watch. One very happy Wolfman.
Fun Fact – Cathy Rosier had recorded a single called Cathy Banana in 1976 on the Barclay record label. Discogs link
PS Keep those ears pinned back for the stunning beautiful soundtrack by composer François de Roubaix and was original released as a 7 inch single EP but it looks like a recent CD release on Rambling Records in 2015 has been put together. Discogs link here
Further Reading Links