“The Samurai”, by Jean-Pierre Melville: film noir regains its original colors

“The Samurai”, by Jean-Pierre Melville: film noir regains its original colors


When starting to film Samurai in June 1967, Jean-Pierre Melville had the idea of a black and white film in color. A gray, cold, monochrome film, whose hero, an ascetic hitman, played by a brazen Alain Delon, brought with his precise and enigmatic gestures, the fetishism of his clothes, the sadness of his gaze, his apparent coldness.

“My dream,” explained the French director, “would be to make a film where only a small dominant would let us know that it is indeed a color film. I think we have taken a small step forward in a now dangerous form of expression: color cinema. We can hardly work in black and white anymore. »

Before Le Samouraï, Jean-Pierre Melville had only shot one color film, L’Aîné des Ferchaux (1963) with Jean-Paul Belmondo. The director of Doulos (1962) remained a master of black and white. He would become the one of color with Le Samouraï . The film marked a definitive abandonment of black and white, but everything points to the fact that Jean-Pierre Melville himself intended to define his colors.

When it hit the screens on October 25, 1967, everything appeared new in Le Samouraï, starting with the colors of the film, monochromatic, dull, sad, in phase with the melancholy of its main character. Since then, The Samurai has become one of the matrices of the criminal film since the 1970s, declined in The Killer (1989), by John Woo, Reservoir Dogs (1992), by Quentin Tarantino, Heat (1995), by Michael Mann, most recently in David Fincher’s new film, The Killer .

Altered film

It has also established itself as a standard meter for color. The chiaroscuros of The Godfather, by Francis Ford Coppola, ensured by his director of photography, Gordon Willis, owe a lot to those imagined by Jean-Pierre Melville. If the longevity of The Samurai is assured, the treatment of its color, the very particular visual imprint of the film, found itself in danger. Since cinema is fixed on film and the film deteriorates, it requires, like all works of art, perpetual restoration work.

With the 4K ultra high definition version of the film, released in theaters in June, and now available in a 4K box set, Blu-ray and DVD, Le Samouraï has finally become itself again. Even if finding the original state of a film remains, in part, a project. The restoration was entrusted to Bruno Nuytten, one of the great cinematographers of French cinema, responsible for the photography of Les Valseuses, Bertrand Blier, Garde à vue, Claude Miller, Détective, Jean-Luc Godard, and the director by Camille Claudel .

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