Photo of Jean-Pierre Melville Jean-Pierre Melville

Born Jean-Pierre Grumbach in Paris on Oct. 20, 1917, director Jean-Pierre Melville was a fan of all things American: He adopted the name Melville as a tribute to his favorite author; he drank Coca-Cola and wore a Stetson; and he made films that blended the American ethos of directors such as John Ford with a postwar sensibility formed by his experiences with the French Resistance.

Melville began making 16mm films as a teenager and formed his own production company shortly after World War II. His first feature film, Le Silence de la Mer (1949), created a stir through its claustrophobic look, location-shot scenes and use of untrained actors.

In the years that followed, Melville would become a major influence on the French new wave through minimalist crime dramas such as Bob le Flambeur and Le Samourai that featured charismatic male leads, including Alain Delon and Jean-Paul Belmondo.

Jean-Pierre Melville in Le Samourai

Le Samourai

1967 PG

A little bit gangster film, a little bit samurai flick, this 1960s French masterpiece from Jean-Pierre Melville introduces the memorable anti-hero Jef Costello (Alain Delon), a contract killer with the instincts of a Japanese warrior and the features of Adonis. After offing a nightclub owner, Costello has two big problems: his double-crossing employer, who now wants him dead, and the dogged police investigator who's determined to rein him in.

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  • Jean-Pierre Melville in Le Deuxième Souffle Le Deuxième Souffle
  • Jean-Pierre Melville in Two Men in Manhattan Two Men in Manhattan
  • Jean-Pierre Melville in Léon Morin, Priest Léon Morin, Priest
  • Jean-Pierre Melville in Dirty Money Dirty Money
  • Jean-Pierre Melville in Les Enfants Terribles Les Enfants Terribles