Review of Le Samouraï (1967)

Moving picture, 101 minutes

Seen in 2016.

Gravely disappointing. The selling point is the philosophical mood produced by brutally simplified sets, schematic plot and laconic dialogue. Some of the time, it works, but most of the time, it’s just Hitchcock’s obsession with studio artifice without his concessions to plausibility.

Consider the long scenes of dozens of suspects queuing up quietly in the middle of the night at the police station, all well dressed, all perfectly obedient, while apparently some 50 cops all work a single murder. Writing this I can’t find exact figures, but there were maybe 400-500 intentional homicides in France in 1967. The Paris police would hardly devote such attention to a single shooting, and this is years after Breathless (1960) and TV news started breathing life into the genre.

Even taking the premise seriously, if the police had such vast resources to spare, they wouldn’t bungle the tail on Costello so horribly as they do in the Métro, nor would they fall for the ridiculous alibi. It doesn’t make sense and isn’t supposed to. It’s supposed to be in part a dry battle of wits between the nameless police detective and the murderer, in part a Sartre-like piece on the tragic pointlessness of whatever. Quite empty.

References here: Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (1999).

moving picture fiction