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Rififi (1955)


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Having recently been turned on to Jean Pierre Melville and French gangster/noir films a couple of months ago,  my new obsession with French and other foreign films in those genres lead me to Riffifi.  I became aware of this film and its reputation and couldn't wait to get my hands on my Criterion copy that I received this week.  I decided to save a little dough and opted for the DVD version.  If a film is gonna be mentioned in the same breath as any gangster film by my new favorite director, Melville,  well I had to see what the uproar is all about.

You guys know the plot.  Tony Le Stephanois ( Jean Servais) has been released from prison early and meets up with old gang members Jo ( Carl Mohner) and Mario ( Robert Manuel ).  They are later joined by Cesar ( Jules Dassin).  Tony is initially approached by Jo and Mario about a quick jewelry store grab by taking some jewelry from the store window of a luxurious jewelry store.  Tony declines but circumstances later prompts him to not only accept the job but he raises the stakes by insisting they rob the store's safe instead.

What follows is THE most compelling heist I believe captured on film.  Melville's heist in Le Cercle Rouge is pretty damn close though but Dassin's version gets the edge.  THATS for starters.  The plot takes a abrupt shift that I will not reveal for anybody who hasn't seen the film.  Just let me say it takes off to a even  higher level.  There was not ONE dull moment in this film.

This film, just like the gangster films of Melville that I love, stayed with me a LOOOOOOOONNNGGG time after I viewed it.  Its just a PERFECT MASTERPIECE.  There is not one thing about this film that isn't damn near perfect.  The plot is badass.  The acting is badass.  ( Dassin gives Welles a run for the money for actor/director in the same film ). The music, The cinematography, everything here is on point.  Another major thing I learned when researching the film. Dassin is AMERICAN and created this masterpiece in France after being blacklisted in Hollywood.  I've seen Naked City.  Did not like. Dassin's learning ground.  I saw Night and the City.  Dassin is getting there. A near masterpiece.   Rififi. A masterpiece. 

Dassin, upset with his treatment in Hollywood takes a project originally intended for Melville ( who gave him his blessings to take over the project) and created not only what might be the best heist film ever but one of THE best films ever.  To have me saying this after seeing the masterpieces that Melville created is quite a accomplishment.  Dassin doesn't create this film in America.  The raw grittiness of foreign films at that time allowed him to create a film that takes the premise of The Asphalt Jungle to a level the censors wouldn't have allowed.  That situation propelled Dassin to create a Masterpiece he most likely would've never done.  What else can I say.... a masterpiece and a perfect 10 out of 10...







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