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: 00:15:24
And now we meet Martey, the man Jef has been hired to kill.
Martey doesn’t matter, at least not to Jef. He’s the last customer at the end of a long shift. The fact Jef planned a way to kill Martey with such meticulous detail without any motivation other than it was his job shows just how cold he is.
Martey is an undistinguishable man. He isn’t even credited in the film. We don’t know why Jef was hired to kill him and that vagueness creates a strange distance between the audience and Jef. Rarely do films succeed when the main character is not only a cold-blooded killer, but he’s also one that is so isolated the audience isn’t invited to get to know him.
What distinguishes this film from the countless films it would influence is how inconsequential the actual hit is. Melville doesn’t linger on the violent nature of the act, but rather the drama surrounding the planning, his escape and the complications that follow. Actual violence of doesn’t interest him, but many who have cited this film as a reference in their own works have taken a more sensationalized approach to violence on film.
I do love the shot of the shot. I unintentionally borrowed from it for a recent short film and all I can say is it must have been lingering somewhere in my mind at the time.