LE SAMOURAI (Jean-Pierre Melville, 1967)

Alain Delon claimed his most melancholy role, and a brutal one, as hitman Jef Costello in Jean-Pierre Melville’s electrifying Le samouraï. Jef doesn’t make mistakes; his careful arrangement of details, including alibis, makes him arrest-proof. But his murder of a nightclub owner generates unaccustomed eyewitnesses, one of whom, the club singer, got a good look. […]

SECOND BREATH (Jean-Pierre Melville, 1966)

From the novel Un reglement de comptes, by José Giovanni, Le deuxième souffle is among Jean-Pierre Melville’s most morally complex and visually captivating works. The film opens as gangster Gustave (“Gu”) Minda and another inmate escape from prison, thus winning a “second breath” of freedom. An overhead shot, because of the design of the prison […]

TWO MEN IN MANHATTAN (Jean-Pierre Melville, 1958)

Written and directed by Jean-Pierre Melville, who also took the lead role of a sanctimonious journalist, Deux hommes dans Manhattan is a procedural. Two men, journalist Moreau and photographer Delmas, investigate the disappearance of France’s ambassador to the U.N. Their nocturnal search takes them throughout the electric city and into “darkest Brooklyn”—a reference that always […]

L’AINE DES FERCHAUX (Jean-Pierre Melville, 1963)

Dieudonné Ferchaux (Charles Vanel, excellent as usual) is a Parisian banker an imminent investigation of whose corrupt dealings has him taking off for the U.S., accompanied by a newly hired secretary, an ex-boxer beautifully played by Jean-Paul Belmondo. The boy’s voiceover has him introducing himself as Michel Maudet, but adding, “At least you can call […]

LEON MORIN, PRIEST (Jean-Pierre Melville, 1961)

Because of its religious material, an inheritance from the autobiographical novel by Béatrix Beck on which it is based, Jean-Pierre Melville, an atheist, disparaged one of his most beautiful films, Léon Morin, prêtre—like his first film, Le silence de la mer (1947), set in a small town during the German occupation.      The central character is […]