The Wounded Predator
from Carlisle, England
, 30 Nov 2008
This is one of cinema's great studies of isolatation.
Alain Delon plays Jef Costello, a hit man who has perfected both the art of killing and of reducing his life to the barest existence. The film opens with him lying fully clothed on his bed and staring up at the ceiling, before he steps over to the mirror, stares into his reflection and then puts on his trademark Tribly and longcoat, to step out into the downpour.
The film moves swiftly to the moment of fate (one of Melville's great themes), when Costello steps out from a room where he has shot a gang boss, to encounter the jazz pianist in the corridor. The rest of the film seems to unravel the consequences of this silent exchange. Both mirror each other in their deadpan looks and the symmetry of male/ female, black/white lends something to the film's sense of fatalism.
Delon plays his part to perfection - glacially calm throughout and Bowiesque in a way that few men can be. There is something narcissistic about the way he lies in his empty room for hours, with only his bottled water and the canary in a cage - if this room is a metaphor for his mind (a la Jung), then the bird in the cage reinforces the point.
The colour scheme for the film is a washed out grey and blue, it looks cold and feels like it was shot in the early hours. If you try to imagine a Sunday morning - say at six - on a dizzly day, then you will have the feel of this film to perfection.
Everything is designed to reinforce the sense of austerity - not least the music - but the most striking moment for me is when he is wounded and manages to find his way back to his empty apartment, dogding both police and gangers. This is the moment when the predator is turned into the prey and he is utterly alone.
Style over substance?This is an ever present danger, but I think this is a film about narcissism and a man's inability to connect except through his work - so for me it works.
If you like studies of hitmen then you should see Max von Sydow's performance in 3 Days of the Condor.
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