I'm really interested to read in this forum, and in several reviews of the disc, the opinions of people who weren't 'converted' by Le Samourai. I've seen the film many times, with lots of different people, and this is honestly the first time I've come across viewers who didn't 'get' it. So thanks for everyone for articulating their attitudes.
From my perspective, the film is pure cinema. It's like a piece of music, where you can follow the repetition and variation of specific motifs, reflect on the beauty of the overarching form and how Melville utilises it (he's composing in thriller, rather than sonata, form) and admire the precision of the individual performances (Delon on oboe) that make up the orchestration.
I'm also interested by this forum, where individuals maintain a sense of such personal possession for their beloved examples of fine cinema-- as well as perception of this board as an intellectual competition rather than an open exchange of independent voices-- that when they encounter those who do not participate in their own highly personalized view of a film, they proclaim this individual as unable to GET IT. One detects a subtle aroma of defensiveness akin to that of the filmmaker himself!
You'll note zedz, that my problem with the film lay primarily in those zones which illustrate, in my opinion, a particular naivete on Melville's part for the basic covering operations of street criminals tottering a step or two from the grave or prison-- the way that dangerous and endangered men compartmentalize critical information as a rule, and can never be caught by surprise due to assumption
or something as adorably outdated (in that world) as trust
(!). If you feel that walking around unnecessarily in your distinctive Hit Clothes is good Hit Man practice... if you think depending on the testimony of an unknown male quantity who is at the moment of his testimony going to be jealously & hurtfully discovering his woman is being doinked by said dependant hit-man... if you think-- competing lover or no competing lover-- that putting your freedom in the hands of a woman, and consecutively exposing said women to the torments of relentless police "breaking" & interrogation because you yourself have chosen the path of Murder For Money... if you think that discounting Double Cross simply because You Fulfilled Your End of the Bargain (but did Jef, since he got himself arrested?)... if you think the above are good Street Crime Demeanor, insuring long life, and if you think such comportment and trust for unknown quantities and grey areas among the slime of the underworld and police should earn the bearer the appellation Modern Samurai... well that's your option.
You'll recall that in my first post on this flick I professed an admiration for the film despite my opinion vis a vis it's credibility holes. And you'll also note that it was I who proclaimed my own entrancement by it's receptivity to personal poetic nuance, it's similarity to music the way it reverbs in the head and cycles back at the viewer during downtime, creating a sense of urgency to get your ass back home to slap on these ever morphing zones of poetic soulfulness. I experience what you experience most satisfyingly. But for me, having seen so many killers go down the tubes via such rudimentary errors, if those elements of criminal naivete were resident in a filmmaker I admire even more than Melville (say, Dreyer, Murnau, Epstein, Tarkovsky, Leni, Bresson, Dupont, Mamoulian, Pabst, Pudovkin, Dovzhenko, Parajanov, etc) I would still have to regretfully admit that my hero, despite his mastery of film grammar, blinked in stone killer-ville in this project.
Lastly-- there is no such thing as not "getting it" when it comes to enjoying film. Nobody is 'obligated' to like a film. One can 'get' 1+1=2. When it comes to the work of another artist, we are all just fans discussing what we love. Ultimately, LE SAMORAI is a bit of a silly story on it's face-- I'd advise against taking it too seriously. If you see a hit man walking & behaving it such a fashion, don't get too attached to him-- he's not long for the world. His behavior is screaming Very Serious Intense HitMan. Maybe it's because I'm a lifelong NYC resident raised on the mean streets of the 1970's Bronx and have seen such above-mentioned Unknown Quantities do in many a hardboiled careful schmecker. If you think every professional criminal would watch that film and say "realistic portrayal of the most successful men I've known"... or if you even believe that every film scholar on the surface of the earth worth his salt views that film and says "Pure Cinema Required To Be Liked", then a bit of horizon exposure might be required.
We live in an age of critics. I just read a quote by Hoberman where he wrote (paraphrasing) "To not get Bresson is to not get the whole of cinema..." Gary Indiana wrote in the Pickpocket insert "whoever didn't weep at the end of Au Hasard Balthazar should be hit with a Mack truck outside the theater." That's a statement only a critic could make. Here you have a guy, a young man who had an ambition in life, grew up and now has a job, and has now determined it is his privelege to lay down Make Or Break Requirements for the whole of the human race that appreciates quality cinema. You'd be hard-pressed to find a filmmaker carrying around that kind of naked anger around with him. That is a statement by a critic targeting-- and distinguishing himself exclusively from-- other critics. Now, notwithstanding that I adore Bresson and "got" him immediately, a statement like that is so irritatingly clannish-- it's the sort of meaningless drivel that arms right wing imbeciles with permission to hurl "elitist" condemnations at the media. Cinema is not math. One may behold an absolutely beautiful, yet indiosyncratic-- maybe even iconoclastic-- woman and fall in love at first sight. Another may be annoyed or bored by her... yet were the former to say that the latter "does not understand the whole of women" is to insult the latter's completely valid lifelong enjoyment of many wonderful, fascinating women.
Let's remember we are talking about love, not math. We all obviously have a love for quality, eclectic cinema, with the fact of the board itself acting as a sort of qualifier. One may love Beethoven but not enjoy Bartok or Stravinsky... that doesn't mean they don't "get" those more unconventional 20th Century composers. I love Zappa's instrumental music-- many don't. I think he's the greatest musical genius of the 20th Century. But most people only know Titties & Beer and Don't eat the Yellow Snow: yet rather than proclaim those who've not looked deeper as failing to understand the whole of music, I enjoy my obscure private passion with all 60-plus albums, most on vinyl. These are matters of the heart, primarily. Enjoy the human variety-- argue for it. And remember-- we're all just fans. In the end, Le Samourai is in my opinion a quaint, stylish little film to be enjoyed mostly by the heart. The head can identify the fact that Melville himself has absorbed a wealth of preexisting film grammar. It is not overly complex, groundbreaking or challenging, in my opinion. It's a comic book dressed up as an atmospheric thriller with touches of American style and european-eastern film grammar.