Le Samouraï: Jean-Pierre Melville's Work of Art

And to Melville, the fate of the gangster-movie hero is inseparable from his style or his morality: it’s part of the form he occupies, just as his Cadillac and his chivalrous manners are. A man has no choice; if he’s in a gangster picture, he looks at certain way, behaves a certain way, and dies a certain way. Genre is destiny—and ethics. In fact, Melville’s films express a philosophy that only a Frenchman could have dreamed up—and only a movie-mad Frenchman at that: it’s genre existentialism.

Le Samouraï is Jean-Pierre Melville’s masterpiece, a film that brings together Melville’s passion for gangster films and his precise filmmaker’s style that always considered the audience. For Melville, entertainment did not mean sacrificing art, rather films for the forebear of The French New Wave necessitated the audience’s attention: thus, there is no art without entertaining the spectator and engaging him or her in a cinematic experience. He fused these elements and a philosophical approach to storytelling with a filmmaker’s independent spirit, becoming one of the early film director’s to run his own studio and productions. When author of Melville on Melville, Rui Nogueira, proposed to Melville that the opening line “’There is no greater solitude than that of the Samurai, unless perhaps it be that of the tiger in the jungle’ might apply equally well to your situation as an independent filmmaker outside the industry,” the film director replied, “Absolutely.” A great inspiration for all pursuing filmmaking, A-BitterSweet-Life presents Le Samouraï: Jean-Pierre Melville’s Work of Art, a 16 minute exploration into Melville’s masterpiece and his influential spirit as a filmmaker.

As written in World Film Directors, “Long respected as an important forebear of the Nouvelle Vague, Melville has been recognized increasingly as a master in his own right, and as a director almost unique in his ability to show ‘that the cinema, for all its technical complications, can still be an extremely personal art.’” Le Samouraï: Jean-Pierre Melville’s Work of Art confirms the personal connection between Melville and the art of cinema. In fact, Akira Kurosawa’s declaration take myself, subtract movies, and the result is zero, could well be said of Melville. In this video essay, we see Alain Delon state, He’s the greatest director I’ve had the good fortune, pleasure and honor to work with up to this point. It’d take too long to explain. He’s wonderful. He knows more about cinema than anyone. He’s the greatest director I know, the greatest cameraman, the best at framing and lighting, the best at everything. He’s a living encyclopedia of cinema. An awareness of the technical aspects to filmmaking, the history of film, and one’s personal and stylistic direction prove to be vital for a memorable filmmaker. Still, another key quality is determination. As shown in the video essay, Melville lost his studio to a fire, only to come out of such a devastation through the need to continue making films. Obstacles always surface for the filmmaker, however, it is how one faces those obstacles that counts. 

Journey through the father of all assassin movies with Le Samouraï: Jean-Pierre Melville’s Work of Art. Filmmakers like Martin Scorsese, Jim Jarmusch, Kim Jee-woon, Michael Mann, Quentin Tarantino, Johnnie To, and John Woo are explicitly indebted to it. Le Samouraï is both Jean-Pierre Melville’s masterpiece and a masterpiece of the film noir genre and gangster films. It also exemplifies the need for personal filmmaking. As Jean-Pierre Melville himself says, It is necessary to recreate a world that conforms to one’s interior image and to make a system of it. My personal universe is a real universe into which enters an element of spectacle.