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Kyle Kersten was a true friend of TCM. One of the first and most active participants of the Message Boards, “Kyle in Hollywood” (aka, hlywdkjk) demonstrated a depth of knowledge and largesse of spirit that made him one of the most popular and respected voices in these forums. This thread is a living memorial to his life and love of movies, which remain with us still.

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Rififi

film noir french dassin

8 replies to this topic

#1 crimewave

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Posted 15 January 2016 - 10:50 PM

Marianne,

 

I completely agree on the likability of Sterling Hayden's character Dix in The Asphalt Jungle.

 

In Rififi I see Tony's (Jean Servais) rescue of Tonio (Dominique Maurin) as being out of character in a good way.  Yes, for most of the film Tony is a no-nonsense type of figure, but his gruff and merciless behavior adds a seriousness and danger to the film that I find compelling.  Tony's character design seems intentionally opposite the unfocused, more romantic, even sometimes goofy behavior of Mario (Robert Manuel) and Cesar (Jules Dassin).

 

At the end of each film both Dix and Tony are driving cars in a race against death.  Dix wants to get back to the purity of Kentucky.  Dying in a field surrounded by horses is cleansing.  Tony's fatal decision to rescue the kidnapped Tonio is based on friendship, loyalty and sentiment.  His final act is to reunite Tonio with his mother.

 

Both Dix's and Tony's actions reveal character and are positive, but Dix's goal was known for most of the film, while Tony's action was never a goal early on in the film, rather a reaction to the heist unravelling and a now revealed sense that a child should never be caught up in the work of the underworld.

 

Dix and Tony are different characters with wildly different backstories.  But, there are similarities. They are very capable, involved in a heist, have strong opinions about what is acceptable behavior, and become mortally wounded.  I find them very well drawn.  Both films are wonderful and fantastic examples of the heist genre.

 

Thanks for the reminder of Dassin's interview on the DVD.

 

-Mark



#2 Marianne

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Posted 09 January 2016 - 12:15 AM

thanks for your post on excellent French noir film Rififi. . . .

 

What I find interesting about heist films is that in real life I rarely root for bank robbers (or prison escapees).  But, in movies I root for them all the time.  Chalk it up to the power of cinematic point of view to create sympathy with people you might not otherwise admire.

 

 

Tony in Rififi is callous to just about everyone—his treatment of Mado was but one example. He is also not very careful about the young boy Tonio. He professes great love for the child, but when it comes to the child’s welfare, he is quite careless. The sequence in the car near the end of the film is an example of his lack of concern for Tonio’s physical safety.

 

In contrast, Dix in The Asphalt Jungle shows much more compassion and humanity:

• He is kind to Doll.

• He has fond memories of his upbringing in Kentucky.

• He is fond of horses and wants to get back to a life where he can have them again.

• He gives all the jewels from the heist to Reidenschneider because he cares more about getting back to Kentucky.

• He is worried about Reidenschneider’s welfare when they part ways after their jewel heist.

For me, there are many more reasons to care about what happens to Dix and his gang. Yes, Dix is a thief and he’s not above threatening people if he wants to cover up his crimes, but his reason for living the way he does is because of losing the family farm to foreclosure and trying to earn money to get back to the land. Dix stood for something, even if he chose a “film noir” way to demonstrate it and to live his life.

 

*****

 

I thought that Tony kills Cesar because Cesar tells something about the heist to the police. That’s the way that I remember the plot of Rififi, but it’s now been almost five months since I have seen the film.

 

*****

 

I want to reiterate that the interview with Dassin on the DVD is well worth a peek for his stories about the blacklist. Since I watched it in August 2015, I’ve learned a lot more about Walt Disney’s role in starting the federal (House Un-American Activities Committee) investigations.


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#3 crimewave

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Posted 06 January 2016 - 12:15 PM

 

I started to feel bored with the almost real-time filming of the break-in, in spite of the camera angles and the camaraderie among thieves at their work. I wish the film had been about twenty minutes shorter...

 

Marianne - thanks for your post on excellent French noir film Rififi.

 

The "silent film" aspect of the Mappin & Webb jewelry store break in gets a lot of attention, however I see your point in terms of the boredom side of the heist.  I wonder if audiences today will accept a lengthy rehearsal of the heist and then watch the actual heist without feeling like they've seen it all before and thus the boredom.  My guess is the rehearsal was included to show the ingenuity of the robbers as well as set a point for something significantly different to occur between the rehearsal and the actual event.  For example, all the planning in the world won't work because there's always the unexpected to screw up the best laid plans.  You see this in Bob Le Flambeur and Asphalt Jungle as well.  Personally, I would be fine with seeing just the heist, no rehearsal.  If things go wrong, you can assume they weren’t rehearsed (oops - unless the “wrong” is part of the plan a la The Sting).

 

In terms of your point about Tony beating Mado for being unfaithful while he was in prison, how did you feel about Tony killing Cesar (played by Dassin) for giving the jewelry to Viviane?  Much of Tony’s code of ethics is revealed with how he handles Mado and Cesar.  When Tony humiliates Mado it is brutal and shocking but it also quickly establishes what he’s willing to do.  From that point forward you keep an eye on him and there isn’t a fiercer, more competent character in the film.  Yes, he’s unforgiving, but is that necessary when it comes to relying on a group to commit a crime?  In other words, if someone drops the ball you could end up in prison for a long time, or dead.

 

 

What I find interesting about heist films is that in real life I rarely root for bank robbers (or prison escapees).  But, in movies I root for them all the time.  Chalk it up to the power of cinematic point of view to create sympathy with people you might not otherwise admire.

 

-Mark


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#4 Marianne

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Posted 17 August 2015 - 05:43 PM

Rififi

 

I enjoyed the interview with Dassin on the DVD. His stories about the blacklist and the background to making the movie were interesting. Some of his stories about the blacklist were heartbreaking, especially the one about the effects on the children of one actor (whose name I have forgotten).

 

The final sequence of the film was amazing. The shots of the trees and the sky overhead intercut with Tony driving and Tonio playing in the car almost made me dizzy (and worried about the boy). It was a great ending. The movie throughout had plenty of style and wonderful camera shots.

 

The honor-among-thieves theme in Rififi started to wear thin for me, however. Tony whips Mado because she moves on with her life while he’s in prison, which seems to come under his “keeping score” approach to his business and his relationships. For example, if someone rats on him, that person deserves to die. But after he whips Mado, she is still willing to help find the Grutter gang, and he calls that settling the score with him. But didn’t he do that when he whipped her? It’s an odd bit of keeping score from my point of view: Tony is always one or two points ahead or someone else must pay. At that point in Rififi, when he humiliates Mado and whips her, I stopped rooting for Tony.

 

Rififi was a long hour and fifty-eight minutes for me. The planning of the heist and the heist itself might have been educational for would-be jewel thieves (as Dassin notes in his interview on the DVD), but I started to feel bored with the almost real-time filming of the break-in, in spite of the camera angles and the camaraderie among thieves at their work. I wish the film had been about twenty minutes shorter and little gentler on Mado.


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#5 Marianne

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Posted 03 August 2015 - 10:59 AM

Last night I watched Rififi that french film directed by Jules Dassin. Recall from our class that Jules was one of those 10 Black listed Hollywood writers, directors, etc. from House Unamerican Activities Commission times of the late 1940's and early 50's. Rififi is heist story and very well done. I highly recommend it. This was on Blu-ray and so there was some extras. There was an interview with Dassin from 2000 and he tells stories of Hollywood, the Blacklist, and the process of making the film. 

Rififi looks like a good one. I hope to borrow this one soon. It will be a DVD, and I hope it has some extras. I'm sure I'll enjoy the film, with or without extras. Thanks!



#6 pestocat

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Posted 03 August 2015 - 10:16 AM

Dassin talks about safe cracking scene in the interview. He said he wanted something like a can opener. The movie was criticized because it showed how to do it.

 

Rififi has a plot that can be gripping and the safe cracking scene itself is fascinating. Having taken the film noir course I have a better appreciation now for Dassin and the film.



#7 cigarjoe

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Posted 03 August 2015 - 05:36 AM

Last night I watched Rififi that french film directed by Jules Dassin. Recall from our class that Jules was one of those 10 Black listed Hollywood writers, directors, etc. from House Unamerican Activities Commission times of the late 1940's and early 50's. Rififi is heist story and very well done. I highly recommend it. This was on Blu-ray and so there was some extras. There was an interview with Dassin from 2000 and he tells stories of Hollywood, the Blacklist, and the process of making the film. 

Agree it's a great film noir.



#8 vintagesnaps

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Posted 03 August 2015 - 12:02 AM

Rififi has a plot that can be gripping and the safe cracking scene itself is fascinating. Having taken the film noir course I have a better appreciation now for Dassin and the film.


Sharon


#9 pestocat

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Posted 02 August 2015 - 04:45 PM

Last night I watched Rififi that french film directed by Jules Dassin. Recall from our class that Jules was one of those 10 Black listed Hollywood writers, directors, etc. from House Unamerican Activities Commission times of the late 1940's and early 50's. Rififi is heist story and very well done. I highly recommend it. This was on Blu-ray and so there was some extras. There was an interview with Dassin from 2000 and he tells stories of Hollywood, the Blacklist, and the process of making the film. 


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