Jean-Pierre Melville’s Gangster Philosophy

During an influential but all-too-short career that spanned a quarter century and thirteen features, Jean-Pierre Melville made his most lasting mark as a master of the French crime film, depicting the ruthless Parisian underworld in a number of methodically pared-down thrillers. Nowhere is Melville’s stylish brand of minimalism on more electrifying display than in 1967’s Le samouraï, which stars frequent Melville collaborator Alain Delon as a highly disciplined hit man who, after a job gone wrong, must resort to many of the cunning tricks of his trade in order to elude capture. While Melville frequently presented characters with little use for the law, he himself expressed no particular sympathy for the career-criminal way of life. In this clip from a supplement on our newly upgraded edition of Le samouraï, the director elaborates on the precise nature of his narrative attraction to the seedy world of the gangster, describing the film-noir form as a convenient vehicle for exploring such elemental human themes as freedom and betrayal.

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