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: 00:16:41
The best laid plans always seem to go to shit.
Narratively speaking, everything leading up to this point in the story has been centered around Costello setting up his alibi for the killing of the nightclub owner at Martey’s, which we saw in the last post. He changed the license plates, ironed out his times with his mistress and the card players and avoided eye contact all the way into the back office of the club. He planned for everything except the timing of the piano player’s break.
This moment catches us in the midst of Costello cementing his alibi, but there is an elusive variable that can’t be controlled.
What I’ve always found inspiring about the French New Wave is their fuck it, just do it attitude. Look at this shot and imagine what the conversation was when they set it up….
Should we block off the street and set up some lights?
Nah, just park the car and walk in the door.
For all the meticulous perfection in Le Samourai, Melville was never afraid to go guerilla.
I feel like people have been trying to chase the raw energy of the 60’s and 70’s for about 30 years. There was a resurgence of the American Independent Movement in the early 90’s, but all the ‘talent’ of that period got poached by Hollywood. Then came the digital revolution, and in order to break away from the Hollywood mainstream mold, we got mumblecore. And most mumblecore films were self-indulgent crap that lacked style and story. They weren’t grasping the genre elements of New Wave films that made them so much fun. Once that moved into a more polished form, we got films like Frances Ha, but really that’s just a movie about White People Problems. It doesn’t have the feverish humanity of a John Cassavettes film because it doesn’t depict an authentic world but rather one that’s shaped by hipsters to create movie moments…something Cassavettes would not tolerate.
I feel like we’ve been given forgeries for some time now and are expected to celebrate them because they offer an alternative to the big-budget popcorn pictures that fill the multiplex. I guess we can swallow that pill, because we are overwhelmed by the Disney invasion of everything, but let’s not confuse stories about the human condition with narcissistic romps through white privilege New York like it’s some form of relief from the big-bad CGI monster.
Things will start to get a lot more interesting in the coming weeks in this series as Jef Costello starts to feel the heat for the murder at Martey’s. In the meantime, let’s lament the state of filmmaking with a screen shot from the closest thing I’ve seen to a French New Wave film in some time, my number one movie of 2017, Good Time.