A 4K Restoration of “Le Samouraï” Is Coming to Cinema 21

The influential French hitman thriller returns to the big screen April 5.

"Le Samouraï" (Criterion)

Even if you haven’t seen Jean-Pierre Melville’s 1967 hitman thriller Le Samouraï, you’ve probably seen the films it influenced. Starring Alain Delon as a killer with a burgeoning conscience, the film’s style infiltrated the work of directors like Jim Jarmusch, David Fincher and Nicolas Winding Refn.

Starting April 5, you can experience the real McCoy at Cinema 21. The theater will screen a 4K restoration of Melville’s film, allowing a new generation of moviegoers to watch Delon glower in glorious high definition.

Le Samouraï stars Delon as Jef Costello, who goes on the lam in Paris after a hit gone bad. The plot is boilerplate, but pulled off with slow-burn style, especially in a justly legendary scene in which police methodically attempt to pick Costello out of a lineup of similarly dressed Frenchmen.

Despite making only a minor splash (more of a ripple) at the box office, Le Samouraï's portrait of a precise, dignified, even noble contract killer helped define an archetype that has been imitated for decades. Melville’s style swayed films as different as Jarmusch’s Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (starring Forest Whitaker) and Refn’s Drive (starring Ryan Gosling as a criminal whose monkish demeanor is très Jef Costello).

More recently, Fincher invoked Melville with The Killer, a graphic novel adaptation that explicitly retreads the plot of Le Samouraï (Fincher acknowledges that Killer star Michael Fassbender follows in Delon’s bloodstained footsteps).

Le Samouraï plays April 5-7 at Cinema 21. Tickets are available at cinema21.com.

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