Welcome to Project 77, a series in which we will examine some of our favorite films by breaking them down and analyzing what we see every 77 seconds on-screen.
First up, Jean-Pierre Melville’s 1967 French Noir Masterpiece, Le Samourai.
Le Samourai: 00:11:33
“I never lose. Not really.”
Confidence, arrogance and perhaps a hint of existential doubt. I believe for a brief moment when Jef Costello visits these old hawks playing cards in a ten-cent hotel room, we get the slightest glimpse of the underlying insecurities of a man with an icy veneer.
The frame we’ve landed on with our little experiment is about as symbolically accurate as it gets when it comes to showing how Costello relates to the world. He’s in the room, but he’s not a part of it. In a moment he will grab a chair and sit alongside these men, but no one ever looks at him.
I often talk about the faces that make up the wallpaper of a film and this would be the perfect example of that. These bastards have wrinkles and grey hair. They have shitty watches and half-smoked packs of cigarettes. A scene like this is necessary to give the film a sense of authenticity, but it also serves to remind us that despite the fact we are following Costello for this story, he is the outsider in this world.
Are we catching Costello in a moment of longing in this frame? Is he looking at the game wishing he could actually join them for the night? In the previous scenes we’ve seen how Costello interacts with women and weirdos who are even more isolated than himself, and I don’t think he has any problems navigating those waters, but throw him in a room full of uncles who look like they’ve snuck off to play cards during a funeral and Jef never seems to get comfortable.
Does being free of social connections allow Costello the freedom to plan so meticulously well for his crimes? Here he has constructed a second alibi…second alibis are things that people who have nothing else to do with their time worry about.
I would be remised if I didn’t mention the fact I love this hotel. I love that it’s above a sandwich shop. I love the apathetic concierge. I love the narrow halls. I love this room. I love the wallpaper. I love the door. I love the metal lamp.
If you gave me the choice of staying in a seedy hotel above a sandwich shop or a five-star luxury suite…let’s just say I’ll be chowing down on a pastrami sandwich in the morning.