The Birth of Cool: The Impact and Legacy of Melville’s ‘Le Samourai’

One of the most influential films ever made, hands down.
Le Samouraï Neo Noir
By  · Published on June 12th, 2017

If you were going to make a list of the 10 most influential films of all time, you’d be remiss to leave off Jean-Pierre Melville’s classic Le Samourai, because without Le Samourai we might never have gotten that coolest, most subtly-baller subgenre of action: the disaffected hitman flick.

Melville’s film, starring my second favorite actor ever, Alain Delon, is a direct ancestor of films like Jarmusch’s Ghost Dog, Besson’s Leon, John Woo’s The Killer, the Coens’ No Country for Old Men, Mendes’ Road to Perdition, and really any other film that takes as its central character a lone, conflicted assassin. This is because Melville did more than tell a great story in Le Samourai, he crafted a stylistic, nuanced, and hip approach to the crime film, one that blends new-age crises of conscience with old-school hard-boiled violence, and the result is an existential action movie, a mod-noir that has influenced countless filmmakers in the half-century since its release.

In celebration of Le Samourai, Phillip Brubaker has made the following video for Fandor which analyses both the overall effect and impact of the film, and the individual elements that contribute to its eternal coolness.

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