Archive of films samouraï / Le samouraï

France / Italy
1967, 100 min

Section: Tribute to Jean-Pierre Melville
Year: 2012

Alain Delon plays Jef Costello, a contract killer who wages an endless, silent battle à la the lone samurai. But he makes a mistake and is saved from trial by a mysterious woman whose intentions are not as pure as they seem. Melville’s masterpiece is a visual triumph as well – a black-and-white film in color.


Jef Costello is a lone hitman who works with surgical precision. His approach to life mirrors the philosophy of the samurai. Although the movie initially focuses on a detailed account of the protagonist’s life, it eventually plunges into the dramatic plot: Costello has been seen committing a crime and yet he doesn’t fear betrayal. According to the director, the intention of the film was to render his schizophrenic mental state. The depiction of solitude as a condition of existence is an autobiographical feature of Le samouraï: Jean-Pierre Melville craved solitude, as does his hero, and Alain Delon brought the role of the loner to near perfection. Hence, the film was entitled Le samouraï, as explained by an introductory quotation (which is, in reality, just a bit of Melvillian mystification). At the same time, it was the first installment of a triptych (with Army of Shadows and The Red Circle) that pursues a black-and-white esthetic in a color film. Postproduction techniques allowed for various methods of "graying down” the visuals: for example, the technical crew deliberately obscured the tones, weakened the contrast when moving between colors, and "dirtied” the colors themselves. The crew also consciously suppressed color during the shoot, which involved a particular choice of set decorations and costumes in order to achieve an overall darkened image and a doleful, fatalistic atmosphere.


Editions René Château
72, rue Lauriston, 751 16, Paris
E-mail: [email protected]

Institut français
8-14 Rue de Capitaine Scott, 750 15, Paris
Tel: +33 153 698 300
Fax: +33 153 698 300
E-mail: [email protected]

About the film

Color, 35 mm

Section: Tribute to Jean-Pierre Melville
Director: Jean-Pierre Melville
Screenplay: Jean-Pierre Melville podle románu / based on the novel by Joan McLoad
Dir. of Photography: Henri Decaë
Music: François de Roubaix
Editor: Monique Bonnot, Yolande Maurette
Producer: Raymond Borderie, Eugène Lépicier
Production: Compagnie Industrielle et Commerciale Cinématographique
Cast: Alain Delon, François Périer, Nathalie Delon, Cathy Rosier
Contact: Editions René Château, Institut français

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