Jean-Pierre MelvilleFrance / Italy105 minutes1967ColourFrench
A favourite of directors as diverse as John Woo (who called it "the closest thing to a perfect movie I have ever seen") and Rainer Werner Fassbinder (who paid lavish homage to it in Love is Colder Than Death), Le Samouraï is now widely considered the greatest achievement of Melville's late period. Alain Delon, unflinching killing machine in trench coat and fedora, plays "le samourai," a contract assassin who performs his executions with meticulous care. (The film was called Ice-Cold Angel in parts of Europe.) Bressonian in its sense of ritualized gesture, its precision, its use of sound (and silence) and non-expressive acting, Le Samouraï features many celebrated set pieces (the chase in the Paris Metro in particular), but it is in the still passages, the temps morts between these that it reaches its real intensity. "A masterpiece of French noir" (David Thomson); "Alain Delon in his finest performance" (Sight & Sound).