Canberra might be a world away from London, but it has Australia’s National Film and Sound Archives and any number of embassies, consulates etc. keen to showcase their culture. The NFSA are currently running, in conjunction with the Alliance Française, an Alain Delon retrospective of sorts, and I’m taking full advantage of it.
Il n’ya pas de plus profonde solitude que celle du samourai si ce n’est celle d’un tigre dans la jungle… peut être
– Le Bushido
(There is no greater solitude than the one of a samurai, except perhaps that of a tiger in a jungle – Bushido: The Way of the Warrior)
Le Samouraï by Jean-Pierre Melville opens with the above quote, made up by the director himself. Apt because the eponymous character, played by the felinely handsome Alain Delon (they shure don’t make ’em like that anymore!) is profoundly alone. Only a bird keeps him company as he goes about the business of hired assassin. His alibi (played by Delon’s real-life wife Nathalie Delon) is in love with him, a nightclub pianist (below) bewitches him, the police are out to get him. But even in the midst of all this action, in the midst of a bustling metropolis like Paris, he is, at the core of it, truly and wholly alone. As we all are, in truth. But in le Samouraï‘s case, his work (and hyper-cool) make it impossible to make any sort of connection.
It’s a stunning film and Jean-Pierre Melville’s mastery of stillness broken by the startling bursts of action, and silence, interrupted only by a few carefully chosen words, is absolute. And the film looks fabulous too. The characters are extremely stylish, as only actors in a Nouvelle Vague film can be. And the action (or lack thereof) takes place against a backdrop of dark modish interiors and the grey blue buildings of 1960s Paris.
Le Samouraï‘s apartment. The distressed, eggshell blue walls, the birdcage, the shabby chicness of it all – the look is still going strong fifty years later.
Moroccan-born actor Cathy Rosier is the nightclub pianist with fabulous outfits. My favourites: the shimmering silver dress and a golden threaded jacket and the perfectly cut leopard-print fur coat. All simple. All chic.
*pronounced in the most Gallic of Gallic accents.
(Images are taken from the film)