Le samouraï (Jean-Pierre Melville, 1967)

Friday, July 21, 2017 - 19:00 to 20:45
Cinematek (Ledoux), Brussels


There is no solitude more profound than that of the samouraï, were it for that of a tiger in the jungle... Maybe... 

The Bushido (Book of the Samouraï), quoted during the opening credits of this film.


« Il n’y a pas de plus profonde solitude que celle du samouraï si ce n’est celle d’un tigre dans la jungle… Peut-être… »

Le Bushido (le livre des Samouraï), citation placée à la fin du générique du début de ce film.


“Born Jean-Pierre Grumbach, Melville changed his name in homage to one of his three favorite writers as an adolescent (the other two were Poe and Jack London); the same sort of Americanophilia marked his early filmgoing in the 30s and 40s. Long before Cahiers du Cinema was even a gleam in the eye of its founders, Melville worshiped at the shrine of Hollywood and dutifully cataloged its artistic riches. In his book-length interview with Rui Nogueira, he proudly recites a carefully composed list of 63 prewar American directors of the sound period, all of whom made at least one film that he loved. (The three controversial omissions from the list were Charlie Chaplin, Cecil B. De Mille, and Raoul Walsh — the first ‘because he is God, and therefore beyond classification,’ as Melville put it, and the other two because Melville disliked their prewar work.)”

Jonathan Rosenbaum in ‘Filling in the Blanks [Le samouraï & The Birth of Love]


“His valediction of such highly classical directors as William Wyler, John Huston, Robert Wise and Charles Chaplin points toward an unflinching, or aspirational, classicism in his own style; expressed in his films’ attention to detail, deployment of iconographic objects and often restricted emotional, tonal and aesthetic palette. But his films, particularly from Le Doulos (1962) onwards, also seem to belong to an explicitly modernist tradition in which the world created appears predetermined, patterned, almost geometric – and such patterns or geometries emerge as key themes and visual preoccupations of films such as Le Samouraï and Le Cercle rouge. Thus, although Melville would like to be connected to names such as Huston, Wyler, William Wellman and John Ford, he belongs as much to a formalist cinema defined by its compositional clarity and spatio-temporal experimentation, and thus should be examined equally alongside such directors as Yasujiro Ozu, Alain Resnais, Bresson and Jacques Tati.”

Adrian Danks on Melville in Senses of Cinema


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