Cinematic cars: Citroën DS21 in “Le Samouraï” (1967)

In a career-defining performance, Alain Delon plays a contract killer with samurai instincts. A razor-sharp cocktail of 1940s American gangster cinema and 1960s French pop culture—with a liberal dose of Japanese lone-warrior mythology—maverick director Jean-Pierre Melville’s masterpiece Le Samouraï defines cool (source).

Much as the DS defines innovative French engineering.

Some interesting trivia about the film:

Hong Kong director John Woo’s 1989 film, The Killer, was heavily influenced by Le Samouraï’s plot, the bar’s female pianist being replaced by a singer. Chow Yun-fat’s character Jeffrey Chow (international character name for Ah Jong) was obviously inspired by Alain Delon’s Jef. The inspiration, or homage, is confirmed by the similarity in the character names. Woo acknowledged his influences by writing a short essay on Le Samouraï and Melville’s techniques for the film’s Criterion Collection DVD release.

Walter Hill’s existential thriller The Driver, starring Ryan O’Neal, Bruce Dern, and Isabelle Adjani, is also believed to have been influenced by Le Samouraï.

Jim Jarmusch paid homage to Le Samouraï with the 1999 crime-drama, Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai, starring Forest Whitaker as a meditative, loner assassin who lives by the bushido code. In the same manner that Jef Costello has a huge ring of keys that enables him to steal any Citroën DS, the hitman Ghost Dog has an electronic “key” to break into luxury cars (source).


~ by velofinds on March 13, 2011.

4 Responses to “Cinematic cars: Citroën DS21 in “Le Samouraï” (1967)”

  1. French? Cinematic cars? Samurai? Surely Ronin needs a mention?

  2. Ronin isn’t french cinema, despite being set there.
    What I find awesome was Melville’s penchant, not so much for the DS, but rather for American cars which are prominent in his films (Is that a Camaro that Delon gets picked up in by the witness?). In fact, the director owned a Shelby Mustang as his personal car. If you watch “Le Cercle Rouge,” all the important characters have big American sedans. Which looks so weird in 1960s Paris that you gotta love it. Melville was just nuts for American things.

  3. The dealership in Marseille in Le Cercle Rouge is just as cool too.
    Twas a good time to be around. Aesthetically anyway…

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