Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai – Comparisons to Le Samourai

Ghost Dog was not created in a vacuum.  Jarmusch is a student of both music and film and it is easy to see the influences of this work.  Many ideas from Ghost Dog are from the 1967 film Le Samourai by Jean-Pierre Melville who mmany consider the father of French New Wave.  Le Samourai is considered Melville’s masterpiece and has influenced many artists from different countries.

The film is about hit man Jef Costello.  He is a man who leads a Spartan life but performs perfect hits.  He is sent to assassinate an owner of a night club which he performs but is spotted by the singer in the club.  The police superintendent believes Jef did the crime but cannot prove it due to Jef’s alibi and the singer not identifying him (for some reason).  The criminal that hired Jef then try to eliminate him for fear of Jef being arrested.  There are many similarities between Jef and Ghost Dog.

Both characters own birds.  In fact during a hit, a bird lands on Ghost Dog’s rifle which appears to be the same as Jef’s.

Both hit men wear white gloves during jobs and have universal keys.  Jef has a key ring with all types of keys for different types of cars.  Ghost Dog has an electronic key which can hack into the electronics of a car.

Both are spotted during a hit and in danger of being exposed by women.

Both are nearly silent characters.  Loners.

Both practice strict professionalism which leads to death.

While they share other themes and plot characteristics, they also branch off in different directions.  Ghost Dog embraces more of a humorous approach to the subject matter (while not a comedy) and immerses itself in African American culture.  Le Samourai is a minimalist thriller that is almost in an alternate world of stylish gangsters and an overbearing police presence.

I don’t want to get too much into Le Samourai here (at least in this discussion).  It is a brilliant film in its own right and if you liked Ghost Dog then you will find the originator very interesting.  There is a reason Jarmusch chose to emulate this film.  It is because there tremendous skill behind the camera in the telling of a story.  It is a great introduction to French New Wave.


One Response to “Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai – Comparisons to Le Samourai”

  1. In both films the women are associated with the crime families that are trying to kill the main character..

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