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      I continue in my pursuit of watching and blogging about the films of Jules Dassin.  I watched "Rififi" (1955) last night.  It was not my first time catching this intriguing and very well made heist film but it was the first time I studied the movie.  I can't just watch a movie if I am going to write about it, I need to absorb it, take it in, chew on it and then hopefully spit it out and discourse about it with some intelligence.

      I want to begin with a fitting nihilistic question: does any of this matter?  Will  these films and the men (and women) who made them survive? Will people be talking about them fifty years from now?  A hundred?  A thousand?  I love film and think it is an important, relevant art form.   I imagine anyone reading this feels the same way.  I hope others do too and that those who follow after us will treat these movies with reverence and respect and most of all  enjoy them.  On to Rififi...

     "RIFIFI" (love that title but still not quite sure what the appropriate English translation is: "rough and tumble"? "pitched battle" ?)) is a 1955 French heist film directed by the American Jules Dassin.  It opens in typical nourish fashion, a smoky room where a card game is in full swing.  Our (anti) hero Tony "le Stephanois" is losing badly and contacts his godson Jo (Carl Mohner) for help.  Jo convinces him to abandon  the game and proposes another way to make money: robbing the baubles in the window of a jewelry  store.  Thus the story is set in motion.  After initial hesitation Tony agrees and proposes they steal not the  jewels but the contents in the safe which will be a more lucrative payoff.  Already Dassin has made us aware that there will be a cost to this endeavor.  He juxtaposes the card game with the cozy, warm, light filled home life of Jo the Swede.  He is happy with his wife and child but a price will be paid for his return to crime.  They enlist two more men to help with the heist: Mario, a goofy Italian with an adoring mate and Cesar  (played by Dassin himself) a safecracker who is beckoned by Mario and comes from Italy.  I liked Jean Servais who is the epitome of "world weary".  Bags under his eyes, cigarette hanging out of his mouth this guy has been to hell and back.  He is just out of prison and seemingly has nothing to lose.  There is a shocking scene where he confronts his unfaithful girlfriend and brutally horse whips her. Wow! What is the role of women in film noir?  Is there an underlying theme of misogyny in these movies?  In Dassin's films?  Googie Withers in "Night and the City"?   Barbara Lawrence in "Thieves Highway"? I would say maybe not because he likes to balance the treacherous or unfaithful dame with the "Good" one: Gene Tierney, Valentina Cortese, the wife in "Rififi"  Even Mado, Tony's unfaithful girl chooses to return to him.  She is the balance contained within one woman.  These films are so male driven that women often get reduced to playing secondary roles or are scheming, deceitful leads (Barbara Stanwyck in "Double Indemnity").  As a self proclaiming feminist when are the ladies gonna knock off the safe, pull off the heist or rip off the racetrack.  Not during the Golden Age of Hollywood; not even in Europe during the fifties.  We would have to wait for 1991's "Thelma and Louise"  or 1996's "Bound."  I am digressing but I love movies and could spend all day writing about them.  Back to "Rififi."  Our boys are successful with the heist; it is choreographed beautifully without dialogue and limited sound.  Better film critics than I have written about this most famous of scenes.  I prefer the human elements of this movie.  Plus I have to be going five minutes.  How to wrap this up in an intelligent and worthwhile way?  The whole thing unravels of course ending in the deaths of all four of our protagonists.  That the reason for their demise lies indirectly at the feet of a female is worth noting.  Sandwiched between John Huston's "The Asphalt Jungle" (1950) and Stanley Kubrick's "The Killing" (1956) "Rififi" completes the third side of this triangle of great heist movies   

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  • 5 months later...

I think that films will be eternal. After the last speck is burned out of the husk of Earth, spaceships will be circulating with discs playing to fill the time, and that any and all movies will be being watched.

What else is there to do? There will be leisure time. Lots of it.


Long after our little civilization is gone, the movies will be known.

Film-makers are still making "TROY" and "BEN HUR"---2,000, 3,000 years after the stories happened or were imagined.

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I saw this years ago. I don't remember the details, but I seem to remember how well the heist was handled - no talking and no music (if memory serves me right).


They were also more liberal than most Hollywood directors of the time with the PG-rated scenes. I recall one where I think the wife of one of the characters was splashing around the tub and the hubby was touching her (or vice versa). Something like that.


I always associate this with The Asphalt Jungle. Time for a rewatch of Rififi. Once I see it again, I'll have more to say on this thread. (I've been meaning to rewatch Diaboliques as well.)



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 "RIFIFI" (love that title but still not quite sure what the appropriate English translation is: "rough and tumble"? "pitched battle" ?))



Original title Du rififi chez les hommes, so you could directly translate it as "The rough and tumble house of men" but I would say a simpler one word title could be Roughnecks.

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I'm watching this now, and it's just as I remembered it: 


-- it seems to be a French equivalent of The Asphalt Jungle


-- it's quite violent, but in some ways more realistic than a lot of American noir (for example, the one character beating his ex-girlfriend with a belt). In a lot of the American noir, the bad boys were a bit too well-behaved outside of the times that they were committing crimes (clean language, treated their women well, etc.). 


-- the heist itself is very well done


The movie was released over 60 years ago, and it's still being watched and discussed. The film has staying power, for sure.

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