Friday, March 21, 2008

In the begining....

Hi/ I'm Matt Komar and this my film blog. Originally, I wrote these reviews and analysis on my Facebook. I've moved them to a more appropriate place and I hope these reviews will help you out. Leave comments about the reviews please. I'll try to reply to them as I love a good film discussion.


Matt Komar's Review of "American Gangster"

American Gangster ***1/2
Directed by Ridley Scott
Starring Denzel Washington, Russel Crowe and Josh Lucas

The film begins with Denzel Washington immolating an Arabic man. It sets the tone and gets you exited. "Maybe this is gonna be the Black GoodFellas!" you say. Well, it's opener is like how GoodFellas opened, but American Gangster is a unique crime drama, but it falls short of an instant classic. Denzel is Frank Lucas, the 70's Harlem drug kingpin who managed to go to the source of drugs himself and sells the stellar Heroin "Blue Magic". Russel Crowe is the man who busted him. Josh Lucas is a smaller character, but he's a bit of both; Corrupt Scumbag Detective. The film is in the vein of 70's crime dramas (love 'em all!) but with a twist. Instead of focusing on one character or party, you focus on two; the good and the bad. The film pulls it off -- but not perfectly. In most crime dramas, you forget that the criminal is bad and you hope to God that he doesn't get caught. But with American Gangster and its two pronged attack, you realize he's a douche and you want Mr. Crowe to win in the end. But then again, Denzel is not the real villain. He just does bad things to keep a tradition going. You root for him sometimes, since people only think Italians can only be mobsters. You root for him in that, but not much. Like I said Denzel is not the villain; Josh Lucas is. And you want his scumbag ass dead. He kills a dog just to get to Denzel's money. Scumbag! But the rest of the cast and its continual action, make this one of the year's best, but only time will tell if it will truly hold up against the other crime classics.
Denzel Washington and Russel Crowe square off at the end.

Matt Komar's review of "Beowulf"

My Rating: **
Directed by Robert Zemeckis
Starring Ray Winstone, Anthony Hopkins and Angelina Jolie

First things first; Beowulf is a visual wonder. The green screen animation is truly beautiful and magnificent. But that's the only good thing about. The rest is a tepid epic that tries to be the Danish "300", which I didn't like either, but "300"'s over exaggerated manner will be one to remember. Enough about "300" and back to "Beowulf". When King Hrothgar builds the most badass mead hall, the Danes celebrate loudly, and it pisses off the freaky looking Grendel (that was played by Crispin Glover, would believe, Marty McFly's daddy). Grendel kills some people and out of this tragedy comes the Geat warrior Beowulf. Now unlike what the movie's animation suggests, the actor playing Beowulf is Ray Winstone. Yes, fat and incredibly Cockney Ray Winstone. Beowulf is full of pride and you can tell it. He's an arrogant son of a bitch. And Ray Winstone, who is a great character actor (see "The Departed" and "The Proposition"), is reduced to shouting all of his lines. Beowulf is a badass, but how he kills Grendel is sooooo uninteresting. Beowulf basically waddles around naked and then he shouts out the "I'm trying to be the next "300" line" "I AM BEOWULF!". Then he bangs Angelina Jolie and then lies about it, Waits several years, becomes an old man, then he has to fight his dragon child. If you like visuals, then good ahead, watch Beowulf. If you like visual dick jokes, then go ahead watch Beowulf. If you like a poorly adapted epic film that has wooden acting, then this film is for you. The epic is no longer a study on how pride can bring you down, but an epic that has been turned into a study on how having kids with Angelina Jolie can be a bad idea. Sorry Brad. If only I can get Ray Winstone to say "DON'T SEE BEOWULF!".
The real Beowulf, Ray Winstone.

Other films of 2007.

"300" **1/2
Directed by Zac Snyder
Starring Gerard Butler
It's damn stupid, but the over top style make you remember it.

Rescue Dawn ***1/2
Directed by Werner Herzog
Starring Christian Bale and Steve Zahn
German Directing legend Werner Herzog makes a splash on Hollywood with this captivating look at the marvelous escape of Deiter Dengler. Christian Bale is amazing again and so is Steve Zahn who give an unexpectedly great performance. There are thrills at every turn in this great adventure.

The Simpsons Movie **1/2
Directed by David Silverman
Voices by Dan Castellaneta, Julie Kavner, Nancy Cartwright, Yeardly Smith, Harry Shearer and Hank Azaria
It's better than the new Simpsons episodes but worse than the old Simpsons episodes. Too short and no love for the other character. Except Ned Flanders.

The Bourne Supremacy ***
Directed by Paul Greengrass
Starring Matt Damon, David Strathairn and Julia Stiles
A tense thriller that may be the end to brilliant Bourne series. Strathairn is awesome as the evil government agent. The end.... not so much though.

SuperBad ***1/2
Directed by Greg Mottola
Starring Jonah Hill, Micheal Cera, Seth Rogen, Bill Hader and Christopher Mintz-Plasse
One the best comedies of the 2000's. Funny jokes every which way. Great chemistry and this generation's voice, McLovin.

Ratatouille ****
Directed by Brad Bird
Vioces by Patton Oswald, Brad Garrett and Peter O' Toole
Pixar probably make their best film to date with "Ratatouille". It's also has the most complex plot for any kids movie. The animation is at it's best and Pixar finally fixed their problem with animating humans. Gotta say that the violence was a bit too much for the kids. Peter O'Toole was hilariously evil as Anton Ego, the other evil Anton of 2007.

Hot Fuzz ***1/2
Directed by Edgar Wright
Starring Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and Timothy Dalton
One of the funniest comedies of the year as the Pegg and Frost duo continue their malarkey in England. This time Pegg is a cop too good for London and is sent to a sleepy town in South West England. He's paired up with a the constable's son (Frost) and then a series of gruesome murders happen. The film is comedic genius and has one of the kookiest endings of all year.

Matt Komar's Review of "Atonement"

My Rating: ****
Starring James McAvoy, Keira Knightly, Saoirse Ronan
Directed by Joe Wright

The trailer for "Atonement" protrays it a sweeping and stuffy, Masterpiece Theatre-esque romance. Sure there are romantic parts, but it's more of an anti-romance. The movie is more like the Romantic novels of the early 1800's where the writer abandons reality and celebrates fantasy. And that could be the theme of Atonement. Also, expect "Atonement" to deservingly get many awards and when you see the movie, you'll know why. Any who, the film's first 45 minutes can be called "Sex, lies and typewriters". Briory Tallis (played by 13 year old Saoirse Ronan) is a budding playwright, whose imagination and curiosity brings out the best in her. But when she sees Robbie Turner (James McAvoy) the caretaker, make an unwanted advance on her older sister, Cecilia, she becomes suspicious of Robbie. Well, in reality, both Robbie and Cecilia, have a moment, that is not negative, but filled with sexual tension and some humour. When Robbie brainstorms an apology note, he writes a word seen but never spoken - cunt. He then scribbles the real apology note but takes the profanity note and tells Briory to give it to Cecilia. Oops. Briory now is confident that Robbie is a sex fiend, and when she walks in on Robbie and Cecilia making love on the bookcase, she believes that Robbie is assaulting Cecilia. Oh boy. Then Briory's ginger twin cousins runaway leading to a search, and Briory finds the twins' ginger sister being raped. So she thinks. And so she turns in Robbie believing he had done it, destroying his and Cecilia's lives. 3 years later, Robbie is in the army, fighting in France, and Cecilla's a nurse, wishing her love would come back. That's where I will stop with movie since the next hour is filled with many turns and spectacular twists. The performances are stellar, and Joe Wright's direction is a marvel. Check out the scene where Robbie wanders around Dunkirk, where the famed evacuation from France took place. A 5 minute single take manages to capture his own personal hell, and Joe Wright's direction makes "Atonement" not a soapy romance, but an art film which would make Jean-Luc Godard proud. "Atonement" is classic film making at it's best. Nothing is wrong here and "Atonement" is one of 2007's best films. But the question raised by the film is this: can one achieve atonement by imagination and art? You be the judge when you see a 70 year old Briory (Vanessa Redgrave) give a heartbreaking monologue on the fate of the characters. It's tragic. But what can you do? Go with the Hollywood ending? If so, get real, cause reality is far too harsh for fantasy.
James McAvoy, in the film's, and one of this year's best scene; the Dunkirk evacuation.

Matt Komar's Review of "There Will Be Blood"

My Rating: ***1/2
Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson
Starring Daniel Day Lewis, Paul Dano and Dillon Freasier

2007 was magnificent year in film. Well, in the artistic sense since that was the year of "Transformers". But that year also brought us a reawakening of artistic film making. "No Country for Old Men" was the crowning achievement of the year. Other films made challenges to usurp "No Country"'s crown. "Atonement" fought hard, so did "American Gangster". But no other film really wanted that crown than "There Will Be Blood", which may have kicked "No Country" in the pants quite a few times for film supremacy. Now with that metaphorical intro, I'm not saying "There Will Be Blood" is the second best film of the year, cause it ain't. It's a top tener, no doubt about it, and maybe in ten years I'll watch it again and say "Fuck No Country for Old Men!". "There Will Be Blood" is a product of Paul Thomas Anderson's ambition, which he has plenty of. He made "Boogie Night" (156 mins) and "Magnolia" (188 mins). Now he made the messed up masterpiece "There Will Be Blood", and I thank him for this. He's now America's best new director (take that, Tarantino!) and he may lead the way for another New Hollywood. "There Will Be Blood" is Anderson's cry to the other young directors to not give a damn and make movies the way they want movies to be made. "There Will Be Blood" is not perfect by any means. It's a messed up masterpiece though. PTA's direction is perfectly syncopated with Daniel Day Lewis' tremendous performance. They dance through this tale of greed and corruption while Radiohead's Johnny Greenwood's haunting score plucks it's way to it's startling conclusion. DDL is Daniel Plainview, a silver miner who accidentally discovers oil in one of his mine shafts. In the process, a man gets killed in an accident and Plainview adopts his son. Ten years later, Plainview is growing oil tycoon, using his "son", H.W., as a way to win over potential land sellers. One day a man named Paul Sunday (Paul Dano) meets him and works a deal with him that on his family's ranch, there's oil. Now when Plainview and H.W. go "quail hunting", they're there for the Texas Tea, and works a deal with Paul's twin brother Eli (also Paul Dano), for $10000. $5000 for the land, $5000 as a donation for his new church. The rest turns into a battle of wills and corruption.
Plainview beats up Eli in public for not healing H.W., who is now deaf from a derrick accident. Eli makes Plainview confess his sins in public while beating the "devil" out of him. That's the film's weak point. You have nobody to root for. Plainview is a greedy, and Eli is a hypocrite. Sure, their conflict is intriguing to watch, but the viewer will not care who will win. It's a battle of who's eviler. Then again, one can see the film as an analogy of the American Dream. Think about it. No business, whether it be oil or religion, became successful without being greedy, deceitful and just plain ambitious. When DDL proclaims, “I’m Finished!“, he has completed his job by destroying the competition. Then again, there will be analysis.

Yet everything is still magnificent. PT Anderson's direction is marvelous. Robert Elswit's cinematography captures the harsh desert landscape of California. Daniel Day Lewis and Paul Dano are both electrifying. Johnny Greenwood's score is mesmerizing and it's a shame that he was not nominated for an Oscar. Same goes to Paul Dano. Day Lewis is definitely going to win the Best Actor Oscar. However, Paul Thomas Anderson's writing is not perfect. It's uneven at some points and tries it best, but the fact he came up with the already unforgettable "Milkshake" quote gives him bonus points:

Daniel Plainview: I DRINK YOUR MILKSHAKE! (obnoxious slurp) I DRINK IT UP!

"There Will Be Blood" is not perfect, but it's a messed up masterpiece from an ambitious director. Expect more great films from Paul Thomas Anderson. Drink it up, lads. Drink it up.
Director Paul Thomas Anderson shows Daniel Day Lewis how to drink up a milkshake.

Matt Komar's Review of "Michael Clayton"

My Rating: ***1/2
Directed by Tony Gilroy
Starring George Clooney, Tom Wilkinson, and Tilda Swinton

Michael Clayton reminds me of three films:

1973 - Serpico: Frank Serpico takes on corrupt cops in NYC.
1976 - Network: Howard Beale gets mad as hell about television in this brilliant satire.
2006 - The Lives of Others: A Stasi officer in East Germany sympathizes with his observed subject and screws around with his reports.

Now I am not saying that Michael Clayton is unoriginal, cause it ain't. It's more original than anything coming out in your local multiplex. What I'm trying to say is that this film is morality tale about just doing what's right. Sure, the main villain is a corporation, but this is not a message film. A never better George Clooney plays Michael Clayton, a legal fixer for a big firm. His job is to clean up any messes made by clients and such. This time, his mess his a very big one. Arthur Edens (Tom Wilkinson; the soul of the movie), the firms biggest and best lawyer, suffers a mental breakdown in a middle of a deposition, strips naked, and roams the streets of Milwaukee, rambling about something. Clayton learns that Arthur has stopped taking his medication and eventually gets him back on the pills. But to Arthur, he didn't go wacko. He found the light. We soon learn that Arthur had a moral crisis, and has built a case against his client, agricultural giant uNorth.
This film is not an anti-capitalist satire. It's more of morality films as Clayton must help the truthful Arthur Edens, from hit men and crooked lawyers. This film is also an underdog story. In the age where the middle class is shrinking, it gives you hope that the little people can beat the suit on top. It is a thrilling drama that would make Sidney Lumet proud. I have to give kudos to the entire films cast and director for making this film a fluid film. However, the best props goes to Tom Wilkinson, for playing the mad as hell Arthur Eden. He is the film's heart and soul, as the corporate lawyer gone good. If somehow Javier Bardem loses the Academy Award for supporting actor to somebody else, I won't be mad if Tom Wilkinson wins. He deserves it just as much as Bardem does. And remember, there is still a thing called hope, and this film has a lot of it.

Tom Wilkinson as Arthur Edens, aka Shiva, the God of Death.

Review of "The Darjeeling Limited" and "Hotel Chevalier" (on DVD)

First with the Bad

Hotel Chevalier
My Rating: **
Directed by Wes Anderson
Starring Jason Schwartzman and Natalie Portman

Hotel Chevalier is the short film companion piece to The Darjeeling Limited . Well, Wes Anderson wasted some good time with this one as it's totally unnecessary. It's just an exercise in ripping-off Jean-Luc Godard. The conflict between Jack Whitman and his ex-girlfriend is more exciting in the Darjeeling than in Chevalier , and yet it is only spoken about in the former. The film is awkward and clumsy and does not have much conflict or heat between the two. The only thing interesting in this film is Natalie Portman's nude scene. The whole film got me scared that Darjeeling was going to be a pretentious clunker like Anderson's previous film The Life Aquatic , but.....

The Good...

The Darjeeling Limited
My Rating: ***
Directed by Wes Anderson
Starring Adrien Brody, Jason Schwartzman and Owen Wilson

In 2004, Wes Anderson made the poorly thought out comedy drama, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, a movie about a Jacques Cousteauesque character who searches for the shark that killed his friend and bonds with a man who could be his son. It was pretentious crap that made me lose hope in Wes Anderson. After making Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums, he made that movie. So with Darjeeling, I was afraid. Was it going to be the same as those previous films, like with Life Aquatic? Well, the film may be the first step for Anderson returning to form. It's a good film, and despite the predictable premise, it's keeps you interested throughout the characters' journey. The cinematography by Robert Yeoman is breathtaking and the score, taken from the films of legendary Indian director Satyajit Ray, adds a great ambiance to the film. The Whitman Brothers consist of Peter (Adrien Brody), Jack (Jason Scwartzman) and Francis (Owen Wilson). After a motorcycle accident, Francis organizes a trip through India to bond with his brothers in a post-dad world. The many escapades they encounter include Jack developing an infatuation with a train attendant, the brothers' quibbling with a conductor and their spiritual encounter with an Indian village. The three actors have a solid chemistry throughout the film, as they try to reach their estranged mother living in a convent. Though not his comeback film, Anderson directs with ease like he did with Rushmore and Tenenbaums. It also manages to cut the quirkiness that Anderson relied too much off in Aquatic. Anderson has finally managed to evolve as a director. It's safe to say that his next film will be better than this one, but this one is better than Life Aquatic. Wes Anderson is back, everybody!

Three Brothers. One seriously messed up trip.

Rushmore (1998) ****
The Royal Tenenbaums (2001) ***1/2
The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004) **

Matt Komar's Review of "The Bank Job"

The Bank Job
My Rating: ***
Directed by Roger Donaldson
Written by Dick Clement, Ian La Frenais, George McIndoe and Aaron Shuster
Starring Jason Statham

What does a car dealer, an ex-model, a porn star, a photographer, a WWII vet and a man from Cyprus have in common? No, they didn't make the greatest porno ever. Supposedly they robbed a bank and disappeared without a trace, leaving only their walking talkie conversations. Now The Bank Job isn't totally based on fact. Or is it? Apparently the screenplay is based on the testimony of informants and others whose names have been changed for safety reasons. Then again, even if it isn't true, The Bank Job is one hell of a thrill ride. Jason Statham is Terry, a failing car dealer living in the East End of London. Almost every day his cars get smashed by goons from a local loan shark and life sucks for him. Then an old partner in crime, Martine (played by the alluring Saffron Burrows), pays a visit and offers Terry a job to do. Rob a local bank whose alarm system is going to be turned off for a week to be repaired. Terry and his chums join in on the idea, but what they don't know is Martine is paying a due for the government. She uses the bank robbery to recover incriminating photos of a member of the Royal Family, taken by a radical activist named Micheal X. I will only tell you this much about the plot as this film has many twists and turns that it would be a crime to spoil. The film is a rollicking adventure that makes your day fun and you want more. A good ensemble cast (Mind you, Jason Statham is not just some karate guy; he can act), quick pacing of the script, and fluid direction make The Bank Job worth your trip to the multiplex. This is good, unclean fun.

Did they really exist? Wait until 2054 to find out.

Second Look: No Country for Old Men

No Country for Old Men ****
Directed, Written and Produced by Joel & Ethan Coen
Starring Josh Brolin, Javier Bardem and Tommy Lee Jones

"What the most you've ever lost in a coin toss?"

Those were the brooding words spoken by Javier Bardem. He played Anton Chigurh, a psychopathic killer who sometimes decides if he's going to kill a person by means of a coin toss. Now he's no Terminator; he is human, but he acts like he's from another planet. He uses manners in a rather upfront manner and his appearance seems to be a mistake. He's like an alien whose doing a bad job of convincing you that he's human. Now this movie is not about Anton Chigurh, which Javier Bardem did a terrific job of playing. This film is about Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin), a Vietnam Vet who has just stumbled upon $2 million worth of drug money. He doesn't know it now, but he has just unleashed the wrath of Anton Chigurh. The only thing that might stop them, is a sheriff, Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones), who thinks that the world has just gotten out of hand.

No Country for Old Men is a film directed by the Coen Brothers, best known for their dark film with a humorous backbone. You can't put them into a genre, even though they have some genre definitions, they do not follow them. No Country follows that idea. I can only sum it up as a "Western Noir", as that tag is the closest thing I can put on film like this. It follows the Western formula in the way that there's a sheriff, a man in distress, and a truly evil villain. It follows the Noir formula pretty well, too. Llewelyn Moss is the typical noir anti-hero. He stumbles into the dark world of crime, and is perpetually trapped. Still, No Country is not like those film. In Western, the sheriff and the person or persons he saving get out alive and order is restored. Sheriff Ed Tom Bell retires early after not being able to save Llewelyn. In noir, the characters are trapped. Lleweyn Moss travels through the vast spaces of West Texas and Mexico. The only noir element it follows is that Moss dies, and the feeling of doom you see at every moment.

People have complained about the ending. It has no closure; It doesn't make sense; I don't get it; Blah, Blah, Blah. In film where the villain is an unstoppable killing machine, who never laughs, never boasts, and can make a car bomb out of a cloth doused in gasoline, odd are in favor of him. Not Llewelyn Moss, who belives he can beat Chigurh. Not Ed Tom Bell, who can't accept the world as the way it is. The audience who did not get the ending are like Ed Tom Bell. They cannot accept the world as a horrible dark place. At the end, Ed finally realizes that he has lost, and it's not because the world has changed. It's because he will not admit to the terror that happens, the terror that always happened, even in time where boys held doors for women.

Now onto the existential and nihilistic elements of this film. You never see a twist in this film, because it's obvious that there is no point for a twist. Llewelyn doesn't die by the grace of God, but by a group of Mexican drug smugglers. I'll be honest. I believe in God, yet this film can seriously convince me that he doesn't exist. This film has no hope. Llewelyn Moss is like Ed Tom Bell. He will not admit to the fact the he will die eventually, like most people in this world. We do not admit we will die eventually, only people like Chigurh, who can be seen a messenger of death (I'll get to that later) and Ed's uncle, Ellis. Anton Chigurh, is not Death. He is a mere messenger boy. Throughout the film, the viewer assumes that he is Death. Well, he's not. Chigurh is a human, and it shows. He was injured by Moss, and did survive a car crash. But he's a messenger. Death is kind of like a boss in a tower like the man who hires Wells, Chigurh's nemesis. However, Wells, like Chigurh, is a messenger. A messenger to a false name. The man Wells works for in is not the real Death. Chigurh takes out this blasphemer, and establishes that he knows death, and can bring death. Also, the fact that Chigurh can never be held in custody proves that he is out of this world. You just can't stop what coming to you, and Chigurh justly proves that.

This film was expertly directed by the Coen Brothers, based on the Cormac McCarthy novel. No movie is more real than this film. People may be turned off by this film for that reason. There is no hope. Resistance is futile. The only glimmer of hope came when Moss injured Chigurh, but that glimmer faded real fast. That's life for you. Just admit it.

Tommy Lee Jones as Sheriff Ed Tom Bell.
Matt Komar's Review of "No Country for Old Men"

No Country for Old Men ****
Directed by Joel and Ethan Coen
Starring Josh Brolin, Tommy Lee Jones, and Javier Bardem

When I saw "No Country for Old Men" today, I left the theater perplexed. I was not only perplexed, but shocked. For the next twenty minutes I thought about this film. What does it mean? Why did they do that? Why does it end that way? I then decided that this film was the most original film I had seen in ages. It was shocking, but not in the way "A Clockwork Orange" was shocking. It was stunning , but not in the way "The Godfather" or "City of God" were stunning. No, this film packs it own kind of punch. The film opens up quietly. There are just some opening credits. Then the voice of Tommy Lee Jones, a sheriff in this film, talks about how the times are a-changin' and then it cuts to Javier Bardem, playing Anton Chigurh, getting taken away by a police officer. At the station, Chigurh strangles the officer with his handcuffs. But this isn't done like the way another villain would strangle someone. No. He smiles. And yes, there have been other villains who smile at death, but you know that he just doesn't give a damn. Around the same time, Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin) stumbles on a complete massacre. Dead bodies everywhere. Even the dog is shot dead. He finds some money and after being chased by some strange men in his truck, Llewelyn decides to tell his wife to scram up to her mother's house, and he will get his business done. Well, Llewelyn doesn't know that Anton Chigurh is out to get that money back and what ensues is a film all about fate. Chain reactions. It's existential, but not in the sense of "The Seventh Seal. It's violent, but not in the sense of "Pulp Fiction". If you're an "American Gangster" fan, then this film is not for you. It's nobody film but it's own. But how people will react to it makes this film a classic. Everything is this film will not be forgotten. You know that you never seen a bad ass like Chigurh. In one scene when he confronts Woody Harrelson, there's this tense moment where there is nothing but a test of wills. A phone rings. Woody get startled, and Chigurh just blasts him. You know you never seen a character like Llewelyn Moss, or sheriff Ed Tom Bell. You know you will never see a gutsy un-movie like ending like this film has. It's a film all on it own. I realized that this is a film classic. Not a modern film classic, but just classic. I did not expect to be floored by this film. And I was. There's no way in hell this movie's gonna win Best Picture. But I don't care if it wins or not. All I care is that this is a masterpiece and should be remembered for ages. There were no heroes. There was no music. There was no ending. There was, however, an unforgettable film.

(I use a four star scale review)
The Ultimate Badass, Anton Chigurh

The Coolness of "Le Samouraï"

The Coolness of "Le Samouraï"
Le Samouraï ****
Directed by Jean-Pierre Melville
Written by Jean-Pierre Melville and Georges Pelligrin based on the novel The Ronin by Joan McLeod
Starring Alain Delon, François Périer, Nathalie Delon and Cathy Rosier

"There is no solitude greater than the samurai's, unless perhaps it be that of a tiger in the jungle.

Lately, I have been re-watching Jean-Pierre Melville's 1967 film Le Samouraï. I've been using the film as a reference point for a screenplay I'm writing. However, I am not growing sick of this movie as a keep watching it over and over again; I become more enamored in it as I find new tidbits and discover different kinds of shot I haven't noticed before. Still, this movie is one of the coolest ever to be made.

Jean-Pierre Melville was obviously influenced by American culture. A lot of his films were influenced by the film-noir and Gangster films that were prominent in the 30's, 40's and 50's. "Melville" is not even his real last name. It the unflattering last name "Grumbach". He changed his surname to "Melville" as paying respect to Moby Dick writer, Herman Melville. Yet Le Samouraï is more Japanese than it is American. Sure, the lonely noir antihero is immeadeately associated with American film noir. Then again, in Japanese mythology, there is a lone warrior. This character appears in many Japanese films in the 50's and 60's (especially that of Akira Kurosawa) and coincidentally, influenced American Western.

So that my nubish film geek can compare more modern directors to French New Wave, Melville was like the Tarantino of the gang. He was the rebel of the group. Instead of making films about rebellious youth or the day in the life of an intellectual, he made gritty crime dramas that predated New Hollywood. Le Samouraï would be his ultimate statement of who he was. A director who just followed his principles. And the character he created for this film, Jef Costello, embodied that spirit.

Alain Delon played Jef Costello. Alain Delon, for lack of a better term, was a pretty boy. Yet he was an incredibly potent actor. His performance as the cold and stoic hit-man made the viewer forget that he is a looker. No makeup. Just acting. Jef Costello, the antihero of this story, immediately pulls you in the first few minutes of the film. In the opening credits, he lays on his bed, in sparse apartment, just smoking. He then get up, looks at the symbolic birdcage, and puts on his trench coat and puts on his hat with the flick of the brim. He keeps the same emotion as he does that. He then steals a car, looks at a woman in another car, and gets his gun from his little helper friend. He does this without uttering a word and cracking a smile. Who can do that? Jef is also a perfectionist. He's perfect in what he does. Too perfect. The way he stole the Citroen was done in such a quiet manner, that you forget what he was doing. Perfection that's cool, not creepy.

Jef is out to do another hit. He goes to his girlfriend's (Nathalie Delon, Alain's wife at the time) apartment to set up an ironclad alibi, then goes to another apartment to set up the rest of his alibi with some bosses playing poker. Both ways were perfect. The hit. That's a different story. He goes to a night club and kills the owner. As he leaves, the piano player, Valerie (Cathy Rosier), sees him quite well and then he leaves, drawing too much attention to himself. So much for that perfect record. Despite his alibi, the alibi's of others, and Valerie denying his existence, the Police Superintendent (François Périer) still believes Jef did it. After Jef is released, the police, and his higher ups, begin a cat and mouse chase through the streets of Paris, as Jef tries to get is act back together, get his revenge on his higher ups, and becomes close with Valerie, who for some strange reason, warms up to the cold hitman.

The following scenes of Jef trying to fight of the police and the underworld are done in the most minimal way possible. Instead of big ol' car chases and gun duels peppering the screen, small encounters between parties are shown instead. Jef meeting with the middleman on the train platform is a relatively long scene, as it begins with Jef walking to the destination, then having a brief, yet tense moment which turns into a quick gun fight. Despite it's shortness, it's damn exciting. Another brilliant sequence would be the metro chase. Jef is consistently followed by undercover cops through each stop on the Metro would be redundant on paper, but the way it's directed and performed make it absolutely captivating. Melville's direction turns this minimalist crime drama into one hell of a thriller. And it continues to pull you in as Jef's world spirals into darkness.

The film is carried by Jef and his principles. He doesn't adhere to distractions. Just look at his apartment. Nothing except for a bed, a birdcage, and a lot of empty water bottle. He also manages to make his girlfriend keep those principles. In one scene where the Superintendent interrogates the hell out of her. He basically compares her to the common prostitute. Yet see holds up and keeps Jef ahead of the curve for a while. Everything Jef does is not spontaneous. He calls it "a habit". He knows that there are mics in his apartment because of habit. He doesn't want his middlemen to point guns in his face. He does everything in a schedule. He also has honor to protect.

Honor? How can a hit man have honor? Look at the ambiguous and stunning ending. I will only tell it in a discreet manner. Jef returns to the bar to kill Valerie, who may or may not be an assassin herself. But what happens to Jef in this movie poses the question. Did he do this intentionally to preserve his honor after failing? Or was just a plain setup? Maybe the title of the film can have your explanations. Jef is like a Samurai. He has some code he strictly follows yet it is never mentioned in the film. Or the title describes Jef of who he is. A loner with nothing to lose. Jean-Pierre Melville was kind of like Jef. The outsider of French New Wave. Then again, Le Samouraï will always stand out as one of the best films ever and one the coolest. It has influenced a wide range of directors from John Woo to Jim Jarmusch. To think, the loner is actually the coolest kid you know.

Alain Delon and Cathy Rosier