#288 Le Samouraï

Watched: January 1st 2021

Director: Jean-Pierre Melville

Starring: Alain Delon, Nathalie Delon, Cathy Rosier, François Périer

Year: 1967

Runtime: 1h 45min

So, happy new year, everyone. What a start. We’re not sure 2021 is going to be much better than 2020 judging by the first few weeks, but who knows? In Norway, we’ve gone right into a semi-lockdown so we’ve had our hands full dealing with the repercussions of that, while of course following the insanity that is the USA closely. However, we are the perpetual optimists and have high hopes for February! Things need to calm down at some point, right? And while we wait, why not watch some movies? Such as Jean-Pierre Melville’s amazing Le Samouraï.

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Remember when we said Tokyo Drifter was cool? Well, prepare to meet Le Samouraï! Jef Costello (Delon) is a French hitman. After being observed at a murder scene, he needs to avoid both the police and the people who hired him who now see him as a liability.

Unfortunately for a killer for hire, he is cursed with a face so ridiculously handsome that no eye witness will ever be able to forget him.

Silently and cooly, in his trenchcoat and fedora, he goes around Paris figuring out who to trust, who to love (if such a thing is possible), and how to survive.

He’s also working really hard on varying his facial expressions, but so far no dice.

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This movie is amazing. The story itself is not the most original, perhaps, but Alain Delon is fantastic as Costello. The world he inhabits is quiet, efficient, spartan and grey, but with the occasional song bird to brighten the mood. Or alert one of danger. Whatever rubs your Buddha.

Real question: how on earth did he end up owning a bird? Did he buy one? Did someone give it to him? Did it just come with the apartment? The public needs to know!

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We loved the little glimpses into the Parisian underworld, such as the mechanic Costello visits, the long, quiet scenes without dialogue, Costello’s M.O. in establishing his alibi and planning his evening of chilling and killing, the police’s strange practice of just rounding up a random 600 people to parade in front of eye witnesses in hopes of finding a match (we hope they put a bit more thought into it than it seemed..?), the two women in Costello’s life, and the quiet, suspenseful action of Le Samouraï.

“Witnesses descibed the shooter as a ridiculously handsome young man, so I got this middle aged lady in for the line-up, boss!” “Good work, officer! With work like this a promotion is just around the corner.”

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It’s stylish and suspenseful, visually a sort of mix between some of the other French films and the older American noirs, and a welcome distraction in a world gone topsy-turvy. And with that, we hope you are all safe and healthy, and we urge you to get your Samouraï on!

If hitmen in fedoras don’t get you hot, then you can at least appreciate the woman who actually manages to pull off this coat. You have our deepest admiration, Miss Rosier.

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What we learned: In Paris in 1967 there were only 100 different keys. Together, they opened every single door and started every engine. Also, everyone owned a set.

Next time: Mad Monster Party? (1967)

#264 The 10th Victim/La decima vittima

Watched: March 15 2019

Director: Elio Petri

Starring: Marcello Mastroianni, Ursula Andress, Elsa Martinelli, Salvo Randone, Massimo Serato, Luce Bonifassy

Year: 1965

Runtime: 1h 32min

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In the near future (from 1965 so, now..?), people are given an outlet for violent tendencies and aggression through “The Big Hunt” – a game in which each participant gets five rounds as hunter and five as victim. The idea is that this will stop people from going to war. You’re licensed to kill your victim and your hunter, and if you win ten rounds there’s a big prize waiting for you!

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The prize is no longer having to wear outfits that will cut you up if you move. Yay!

 

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One of the greatest hunters is Caroline Meredith (Andress) – a woman with deadly boobs and the wits to go with them. But when she’s pitted against Italian pro Marcello Poletti (Mastroianni) she meets her match. In every sense.

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“Oh, don’t mind me. I was just planning to make a surrealist documentary about a man drinking from 16 glasses at once when I happened to spot you. Carry about your business.”

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This thing was insane and we loved it! The ’60s-inspired futuristic fashion is amazing, and the entire movie is sexy, stylish, campy fun. We loved the dancing, the cow print dress, the insanity of Marcello’s sun worshipping cult (what the h*** was that all about?), Caroline’s deadly boobs, the random people killing each other in the background, and Marcello’s wife and girlfriend going off on their own spree.

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It might look cool, but girl – those tan lines!

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This is one of the most entertaining episodes of Spy vs. Spy you’ll ever see, and an interesting take on a futuristic dystopia. But a stylish, sexy dystopia. With excellent fashion (and government controlled culling of the elderly, but we’re not supposed to focus on that..).

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We simultaneously love and hate this hot pink outfit in equal measure. We have nothing but love for the musicians on the boxes though.

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We would love to watch this on the big screen at some point as a normal TV could never do it justice. And we encourage everyone to do the same if you ever get the chance once social distancing and quarantines are over. We’re also wondering just how many drugs were involved in the making of it…

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Our best guess is oh so many. And some very creative designers with a penchant for colour blocking.

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What we learned: The moment you catch feelings is the moment you catch a bullet.

Next time: The Collector (1965)

#35 The Man Who Knew Too Much

Watched: September 21 2016 (delayed Blu-Ray delivery meant we couldn’t watch in order)

Director: Alfred Hitchcock

Starring: Peter Lorre, Edna Best, Leslie Banks, Nova Pilbeam

Year: 1934

Runtime: 1h 15min

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Jill (Best) and Bob (Banks) Lawrence have brought their daughter Betty (Pilbeam) on a holiday in the Swiss alps, expecting no trouble apart from stories to bore their friends with upon returning to England. They befriend a Frenchman called Louis who is assassinated on the dance floor on his last day at the resort.

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Literally assassinated – not just served

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Before he dies, he manages to give Jill instructions about a very important message which must be brought to the British consul. Bob retrieves the message from the dead man’s room, but before the couple has time to talk to anyone from the consul, they receive a note saying their daughter is kidnapped and will be killed if they talk.

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“Is it worth it though, darling? I mean, we could always make another. How fond of her are you really..?”

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The Lawrences decide not to risk their only child’s life and return to London pretending Betty’s with an aunt in Paris and not at all kidnapped and held by some secret society plotting the assassination of a foreign dignitary. Since they cannot confide in the police, Lawrence goes after the bad guys himself and manages to track them down rather easily.

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When in doubt, gas and impersonate a dentist until you overhear the information you need. Works nine times out of ten!

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Of course, it goes as it must, and soon both father and daughter are hostages. It’s up to Mama to save the day.

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“This never would have happened to Liam Neeson. Damn my lack of a particular set of skills!”

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We won’t reveal the ending (except to mention that there’s a shoot out!), but we urge you to watch this film. There’s suspense, intrigue, international politics and espionage, and there’s Peter Lorre being almost as creepy as he was in M. There are also some truly hilarious scenes, such as when Bob and friend/cohort Clive sing messages to each other in church and the ensuing chair fight with organ music accompaniment. Hitchcock really knew how to build suspense (in case no one’s pointed this out before) and while this is a fairly early work compared to some of his more famous masterpieces, The Man Who Knew Too Much is still a good example of his skills. The silence helps build the tension (there’s no score for most of the film) and some of the scenes literally had us on the edge of our seats.

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How did they end up on the roof? Will they get down? Why is his head so big? Who are these people anyway? Watch the movie to have at least three of these questions answered!

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What we learned: Peter Lorre used to be typecast as a child killer. Dentists are always in on evil plots.

Next time: The Scarlet Empress (1934)