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Du Rififi Chez Les Hommes/Rififi(1955) can on the surface be described as
French variation on John Huston's seminal heist film, Asphalt
The difference between the two films is Rififi(1955) pays a little more
attention in detail to the robbery sequence. Also, the police aren't
involved in the aftermath of the robbery in Rififi as much as in Asphalt
Jungle. In the end Rififi(1955) is in my opinion a slightly better film
than Asphalt Jungle(1950). Remarkable Noir picture that defines 1950s
Spartacus(1960) may have been the one which broke down the infamous blacklist, but in my opinion Rififi(1955) was the film that began to break apart the unbreakable Hollywood blacklist. First film in five years for Jules Dassin who was victimized by the McCarthy communist hunt of the late 40s to early 50s. He got some sort of retribution when Rififi(1955) became a success around France and Europe. Thus defying the poisonious Hollywood blacklist in a major way that probably inspired others to do the same. Rififi(1955) is the most important film of Dassin's career because it not only restored his name, but also gave him a second chance at making films.
Jules Dassin gave the filmworld and its ever growing audiences a masterpiece of influential proportions. His handling of the material is exceptional and direction of the actors is flawless. Builds up tense situations with precise craftsmanship. Dassin came full circle in the Film Noir genre by directing his best and last Noir, Rififi(1955). Marked the end of Dassin's period in filmmaking when he was involved in doing Noir pictures.
Rififi(1955) is the number one film in an arsenal of thirty plus films for director, Jules Dassin. A masterpiece in acting, cinematography, directing, editing, and writing. Not a film to leave your seat for one minute because there is always something memorable going on. As brilliant as anything by Jean Pierre Melville who was a master of this type of film. Masterpieces such as Rififi(1955) are relatively small compared to the probably billions of films made in motion picture history.
The one fascinating aspect of Rififi is the precise planning and careful execution of a robbery that takes up a bulk of the 118 minute duration. The main characters plan and execute the jewel heist in the same way a film director prepares for the pre-productions, production, and post-production of a film. Shows how difficult a Jewel heist like in Rififi(1955) is in committing and why very few would do something like it. The fact that the scene hardly contains a mess up like in other heist films turns this scene into something even greater. Close as one can get to having a perfect sequence in a motion picture.
Lack of unnatural sound in the landmark thrity minute heist sequence puts it in a realm of absolute realism. Any dialogue or/and music would ruin any suspense and tension the director is trying to create. The use of natural sound makes the heist sequence a rewarding film viewing experience. Now Filmmakers and producers would use dialogue and music in a scene like this because of a lack of confidence of a mainstream filmgoer's patience. Sustains a level of consistency that never once lets down.
Maintaining a high level of suspense is what makes the heist sequence tick to perfection. The director achieves suspense in the heist sequence that's rarely equaled in most robbery scenes from heist films. Jean Servais and the rest of the main actors contribute to the suspense with some low key acting. Getting suspense put in a scene is a task few are capable of doing. The robbery sequence of Rififi(1955) reaches a Hitchcockian level of suspense and tension.
Many filmmakers from the years following Du Rififi Chez Les Hommes(1955) have been influenced if not inspired by it. One filmmaker influenced was Jean Pierre Melville(original choice for director of Rififi)who used variations of the heist sequence in Le Doulos(1961), and Le Cercle Rouge(1970). Another filmmaker influenced was Stanley Kubrick who made a similarly themed film in The Killing(1956). Also, Quentin Tarantino whose debut feature Reservoir Dogs(1992) was inspired by this film. Other film directors influenced are John Woo, Michael Mann, Paul Schrader, Ringo Lam, etc...
Du Rififi Chez Les Hommes(1955) is comparable to Bob le Flambeur(1955) in many ways. One, Jules Dassin and Jean Pierre Melville directed groundbreaking films in Rififi(1955) and Bob le Flambeur(1955). Two, each film involves an aging criminal who plans and carries out a daring heist. Three, Bob le Flambeur and Rififi finishes in fatalistic fashion. Four, each film shares many motifs and situations that classify the two as film greats.
Part of Rififi's charm are the colorful characters that surround the story such as Tony le Stephanois, Jo le Suedois, Mario Farrati, and Cesar le Milanais. Most of the violence is implicit yet effectively brutal. The main characters led by Tony le Stephanois abide by a strong outdated code of honor that is remindful of Sam Peckinpah and John Woo. Jean Servais becomes the role of Tony le Stephanois with his cynical outlook and tired looks. Du Rififi Chez Les Hommes/Rififi(1955) became a favorite of mine the moment I saw it on the big screen from beginning to end.
If any film approaches perfection, this is the one. Pound for pound and
scene for scene it is the best. The only others even close are the
Maltese Falcon and Asphalt Jungle, but this is the baby that beats even
them. For sheer black and white beauty it is the equal of Asphalt, and
just never lets up. Its ending is one of the best of all time, easily
the equal of Citizen Kane. And making it even more amazing it that it
was cobbled together in desperation: and made for practically nothing.
In short, a bloody miracle.
It builds beautifully. Everything in it works, even down to the great music of George Auric.
Shot in early winter or late spring, it is authentic down to the white gangster breaths on the air. Paris never looked more dangerously beautiful.
Of all the films I have ever seen, it is the only one I would give a nine and a half to. And since most of it works very well without comment, probably it is best to just say, watch it and behold.
Rififi deservedly gets a lot of mention for the famous heist scene, and,
indeed, that scene deserves all the credit it gets. It's a masterful
of suspense, character interaction and photography. But Rififi isn't just
this one scene - every scene in the film is as masterfully put together,
as a whole, the film is not only taught with suspense, plot and
but an adroitly told moral tale that set the scene for film noire for
Cinematically and technically, the heist sequence may be the most impressive scene of the film, but for me, it's the final scene that holds the most power - Tony le Stéphanois's hallucinogenic drive towards redemption.
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This is a French film noir directed by an American film maker (Jules Dassin) who had to leave the country because of being blacklisted by Hollywood thanks to HUAC. The premise of the story is rather familiar--one last jewel heist for Tony le Stephanois and his buds--and so is the ending with everybody getting... Well, no spoilers here, for sure, since this is the sort of film in which tension toward the ending is important.
Dassin filmed in realistic lighting in black and white on the streets of Paris using actors and actresses who are not glamorous. The engaging--sometimes intruding--score by Georges Auric nicely enhances the movie and will remind viewers of many a similar score from American film noirs from the forties and early fifties. Jean Servais plays the hardcore, consumptive lead in a fedora much as Humphrey Bogart might have played him. Tony's recently out of prison, past his prime, but still tough and decisive when he has to be, his mind still sharp when focused, the kind of anti-hero whose eyes water even though the tears will never fall.
Dassin plays the Italian safecracker and would-be ladies man who knows the rules but gets careless.
In film noir we are forced by the logic and focus of the film to identify with the bad guys. Often there are levels of bad guys, the "good" bad guys we are identifying with and the "bad" bad guys who are out to do in our good bad guys, and then maybe there's a really bad, bad bad guy or two. (Here we have Remi Grutter, played by Robert Hossein, a slightly sadistic druggie.) Then there are the cops who are irrelevant or nearly so. In more modern film noir the bad guys are not even "good" bad guys, and they get away with it or something close to that. In the old film noir, which evolved from the gangster films of the thirties, the usual motto, following the old Hollywood "code," was "Crime Doesn't Pay," with every criminal having to pay for his or her crime before the end of the movie.
Probably the most impressive feature of Rififi is how nicely the film moves along. The plot unfolds quickly and seamlessly much the way the great film directors always did it, directors like Stanley Kubrick, Louis Malle, and the best of Hitchcock. Some have actually compared this to Kubrick's The Killing (1956) and suggest that Kubrick stole a little. Well, directors always steal if need be, and there are some perhaps telling similarities, such as it being "one last heist" for the protagonist, and having the girl gum up the works. The similarities may go deeper because as this film was nearing its end I suddenly thought, oh, no! the suitcase in the back seat is going to fly out of the convertible, hit the ground, burst open, and all the money is going to fly into the air! Those of you who have seen The Killing may recall what happened to the money near the end of the film! Which reminds me of another film with something bad happening to the money: Oliver Stone's U Turn (1997) starring Sean Penn. There the money in his backpack gets blown to smithereens by a shotgun blast. Ha, ha, ha! Getting the dubbed version of this film would be an act of sacrilege since the dialogue (when there is some: the heist itself is done entirely without dialogue, about 30 minutes worth) is terse and easy to follow requiring only an occasional glance at the subtitles, which, by the way, are quite utilitarian and guiding as opposed to having every word spelled out.
One other thing: all the brutality is done as sex used to be done in film, that is off camera. A guy gets his throat slit. We don't see it. I kind of like this approach. We don't have to see the gore. You could almost let your kids see Rififi--almost.
Catch this one now and be on the lookout for a Hollywood reprise starring Al Pacino and directed by Harold Becker coming out next year in which you can be sure that the violent scenes will be played out in full.
I see alot of movies at the cinema (103 so far this year) and I have to say
that this is by far and away the best film I have seen this year, even
though it was released back in 1954!
I sat in awe and watched this work of genius and felt quite ashamed that I had never even heard of it before my local art house cinema decided to show it for a week on what looked like a new print.
The best part of the whole movie has to be the 28 minute break in where there is no speech and no music, merely the sound of the men carrying out the heist. Pure quality.
Although really dark in places it is lightened with the dry humour.
Not many films score 10 out of 10 but this does and also gets a gold star for effort!!
If you ever get a chance to see this movie, please do not hesitate, it's a classic.
RIFIFI (Jules Dassin - France 1955)
To me, it seems a very risky idea to attempt a Hollywood-remake of Jules Dassin's 1955 classic RIFIFI. Planned for release in 2007, Al Pacino apparently is gonna play the lead, taking on the role of Tony le Stephanois. Risky business... How they're gonna pull this off?
Ironically, Dassin was blacklisted in Hollywood and went on to try his luck in France and made this little masterpiece, aptly called by some "The Grandddady of all caper- and heist movies". In my opinion, it remains a one-of-a-kind classic, beautifully filmed with one of the most memorable endings ever to be put on film. Whatever one's opinion of the film.
In the last couple of years RIFIFI has become dangerously overpraised. Nevertheless, this French noir-classic shouldn't be forgotten. Go see it, before the remake is out there, in order to have some ammunition for comparing the two.
Camera Obscura --- 9/10
After five years in prison, Tony le Stéphanois (Jean Servais) meets his
dearest friends Jo (Carl Möhner) and the Italian Mario Ferrati (Robert
Manuel) and they invite Tony to steal a couple of jewels from the
show-window of the famous jewelry Mappin & Webb Ltd, but he declines.
Tony finds his former girlfriend Mado (Marie Sabouret), who became the
lover of the gangster owner of the night-club L' Âge d' Or Louis
Grutter (Pierre Grasset), and he humiliates her, beating on her back
and taking her jewels. Then he calls Jo and Mario and proposes a
burglary of the safe of the jewelry. They invite the Italian specialist
in safes and elegant wolf Cesar (Perlo Vita) to join their team and
they plot a perfect heist. They are successful in their plan, but the
D. Juan Cesar makes things go wrong when he gives a valuable ring to
"Du Rififi Chez les Hommes" is a magnificent film-noir, certainly among the best I have seen. The screenplay has credibility, supported by an awesome direction of Jules Dassin, stunning performances of the cast and great cinematography. Jean Servais has outstanding performance in the role of a criminal with principles guided by the underworld rules. The famous long silent sequence of the heist is amazing and extremely tense and certainly among the best ones of the cinema history. I am listing this great movie in my list of favorite movies ever. My vote is ten.
Title (Brazil): "Rififi"
This film is a work of pure class from start to finish, for a moment forget the famous 28 minute no dialog heist, forget that it's set in Paris and forget it's Noir. The film itself, the premise and the execution make this a pure gold experience.. it's sharp intelligent and thought through in great detail, just like the heist itself. It portrays real characters that are not only believable but whom you empathize with. It's a film that doesn't glamorize the notion of a robbery but shows it for what it is.. theft. It shows that a heist is hard work and ultimately not worth doing. Now all things considered put on top of that a daring 28 minute sequence with not a word spoken and set in gorgeous Paris with truly great attention to detail and fantastic cinematography and that last scene ...when you look up and see those trees... wonderful use of raw and basic filming techniques... it is a master piece in my view and I'm glad to have seen it.
'Rififi' is so damn good it takes your breath away! Director Jules Dassin, blacklisted from Hollywood, was living almost hand to mouth in Europe and taking any job he could get, when he made this movie, a project he was initially not at all excited by. Happily he turned around an awful situation and ended up making a classic thriller which is still one of the greatest crime movies ever made. One of the most influential too, having an impact on movies like 'The Killing', 'The Anderson Tapes', 'Thief', 'Reservoir Dogs', 'The Score' and many, many others. 'Rififi' is a classic heist movie but it is much more than that, it is a superbly written and acted character study. The robbery sequence itself is regarded as one of the most impressive in film history, but it is by no means the only thing worth watching this movie for. In fact I'd go so far as to call it perfect. Every time you watch it you discover something more of interest. Jean Servais, who later appeared in the entertaining horror sexploitation movie 'The Devil's Nightmare', is absolutely wonderful as Tony, a veteran criminal talked into joining his young friend Jo (Carl Mohner) in a daring robbery. His performance is first rate, but Mohner and the rest of the cast are equally good, including Drassin himself as Cesar, an Italian safe-cracker who inadvertently causes the gangs ultimate downfall. There's a brilliant scene between Servais and Drassin towards the end of the movie which is short but unforgettable. Look out for it. Truffaut raved about this movie calling it the best Noir he'd ever seen. I don't think he was exaggerating, it really IS that good, and personally I think it's a much better movie than Truffaut's more celebrated 'Breathless'. If you enjoy crime thrillers it doesn't get much better than this! Highly recommended!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The minutiae of what's involved in carrying out a robbery is what makes
this one of the best of all heist movies. Then there's the robbery
itself, a wordless, thirty minute nail-biter that has never been
surpassed, followed by what is probably the cinema's most pronounced
example of dishonor among thieves as things begin to spectacularly
unravel, and we have what is unquestionably the greatest of all heist
This was a tough and unsentimental film when it first appeared in 1955 and it is just as tough and unsentimental today. (It displays some of the edgy brutality of Dassin's earlier "Brute Force"). There isn't a flabby moment or duff performance in the entire film and Dassin captures the milieu of seedy clubs and Parisian back streets like no-one else and the final drive through Paris by a dying man is one of the most iconic closing sequences of any movie. A classic.
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