what is up with the le samouraï madness raging on?  granted, it is one of my (and most everyone’s) favorite films.  i can easily rank it among my top 30 or so.  and many, many paid homage to it, from jarmusch to john woo.  but the last couple of years the melville dose has been increasing.  i can understand the appeal– the romantic notion of the lonesome soldier of fortune.  the hero who feels but can’t express.  loyalty sans any misgivings.  sacrifice without hesitation.  the character is as old as dirt but still appeals to the romantic hero in us.

this week, accidentally, i watched two films, almost back to back, with le samouraï influences.  first sólo quiero caminar, a noble spanish/ mexican attempt, and the the american, a clooney vehicle at first blush, but actually a fairly good film.

solo had good intentions but was executed poorly.  could have been a good film.  le samouraï homage was shameless– in one scene, behind the hero, there was a theater marquee with “le samouraï” on it.  in another there was a le samouraï poster.  and the hero was your quintessential brutal sentimental killer.   naturally he died in the end.   there was also a decent shout-out to the michael mann/ james caan jewel thief.  it was a decent film but not all it could be.

the american was better.  clooney actually did a very, very good job as the long-vacated shell of a mercenary.  after watching it, i read some of the reviews.  many didn’t like it.  i say they didn’t get it.  “the american to clooney was what legends of the fall was to pitt” i heard one say.  bullshit.  yes, the film was picture perfect.  yes, the pace was slow.  yes, some scenes looked like 70s soft-porn.  but it was all deliberate.

corbjin, a photographer foremost, of course had to make it picture perfect.  take a look at his joy division biopic control, probably one of the best rock biopics i’ve ever seen– despite all its grit and torment it was beautifully shot.

yes, the shots were not consistent in the american— it went from cold and distant, with some interesting tele and wide lens applications, to soft and touchy.  especially the shots with the beautiful italian prostitute clara naked: when she is frolicking naked in the chilly italian creek, bathing in the softest of the lights, it feels like an early 70s soft-porn or a retro nekkid photo spread like the hippie goddess with au naturel hippie chicks (i swear, i could smell the patchouli in that scene).  it created a great contradiction with clooney’s desolate soul and the pure and simple life he could have had if he just took that one step.  i thought those scenes fit the film perfectly and were great narrative tools.  overall, well done anton…

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