"In its iconography, Le Samouraï, like Le Doulos, multiplies Hollywood citations: the line-up at the police station, ‘lifted’ from The Asphalt Jungle, with Jef, like Dix (Sterling Hayden) staring down at police and witnesses, the police station offices, the black-and-white views of American fire escapes through Jef’s (sash) windows. These, however, are not examples of ‘copying’ or ‘reproduction’, as Tavernier and others would have it, but formal elements that are self-consciously reworked in Melville’s original design.” — Jean-Pierre Melville: An American in Paris


"There is no greater solitude than that of the samurai, unless it is that of the tiger in the jungle… perhaps…" — Bushido (Book of the Samurai)

"There is no greater solitude than that of the samurai, unless it is that of the tiger in the jungle… perhaps…" Bushido (Book of the Samurai)

Did the Melville film about the samurai have any shape on Ghost Dog?
Jim Jarmusch: Inspiration certainly. Not so much on the shape of the movie, but certain thematic things. Melville always has killers wear white editor’s gloves, which is a private joke between him and his editors, I guess saying his editor kills his films. So Forest wears white editor’s gloves in the film. But there are references to other films. My favorite hitman films of all time are Le samouraï, and Branded to Kill by Suzuki. I made quotations from those films in ways. [ x ]

Ghost Dog was a big breakthrough for me. Though I refer to Chaucer or to Walt Whitman or things in passing in the earlier films, in this case I opened myself up to actually quoting other things, and that came, I really think, from my love of music. I love all kinds of music, but hard bebop, dub, and hip-hop, in particular, are forms that are very open about taking things from other places, and I think they gave me—well, “courage” isn’t the right word, but my love of those forms of music somehow spoke to me internally and said, “Don’t push things away just because they come from other sources,” which is what I often used to do. “Go ahead and open the windows and let them in, and don’t hide that you let them in.” I’m not going to play a game like all these ideas are original and they’re mine: I want to talk about where they came from, because if someone sees Ghost Dog and it leads them to see films by Melville or Point Blank, by John Boorman, or the films of Seijun Suzuki, or to read Don Quixote, or something that I mention in the credits, then that’s a good thing. I didn’t hide that in any way in Ghost Dog. Maybe Dead Man was a precedent, because that wacky poet William Blake walked right into my damn script. [ x ]

Jean-Pierre MelvilleOctober 20, 1917 — August 2, 1973
"I don’t want to situate my heroes in time; I don’t want the action of a film to be recognizable as something that happens in 1968. That’s why in Le samouraï, for example, the women aren’t wearing miniskirts, while the men are wearing hats—something, unfortunately, that no one does anymore. I’m not interested in realism. All my films hinge on the fantastic. I’m not a documentarian; a film is first and foremost a dream, and it’s absurd to copy life in an attempt to produce an exact re-creation of it. Transposition is more or less a reflex with me: I move from realism to fantasy without the spectator ever noticing.”

Jean-Pierre Melville
October 20, 1917 — August 2, 1973

"I don’t want to situate my heroes in time; I don’t want the action of a film to be recognizable as something that happens in 1968. That’s why in Le samouraï, for example, the women aren’t wearing miniskirts, while the men are wearing hats—something, unfortunately, that no one does anymore. I’m not interested in realism. All my films hinge on the fantastic. I’m not a documentarian; a film is first and foremost a dream, and it’s absurd to copy life in an attempt to produce an exact re-creation of it. Transposition is more or less a reflex with me: I move from realism to fantasy without the spectator ever noticing.”

Japanese poster for Jean-Pierre Melville’s Le Samouraï.

Japanese poster for Jean-Pierre Melville’s Le Samouraï.