World Cinema Wednesday: Rififi (1955)
Bonjour. Hola. Konnichiwa. Ciao. Hallo. Etc. You get the idea. This is my way of introducing the first in which I hope will be a weekly excuse to travel the world, cinematically speaking. And what better way to kick things off than with a long-overdue first time viewing of the acclaimed heist movie, Rififi.
For anyone who hasn’t already heard about this film, it’s fair to say that this is a crime movie most famous for an extended heist sequence that features no spoken dialogue for just over half an hour. And the praise heaped upon this sequence is absolutely deserved, every little bit of it. You’ll be on the edge of your seat as you watch the four main characters patiently enact their well-planned robbery. There’s more to the film than that, of course, and the plot also muses on loyalty, jealousy, and revenge.
It’s hard to discuss the movie much further, as it is often hard to discuss so many classics that have already been praised and analysed for more years than I’ve been breathing and moving around on this planet. I can’t possibly say anything that hasn’t been said about it already.
But that won’t stop me from repeating what many others have already said.
Dassin, who is well-known to fans of film noir (Night And The City is another of his movies that I love), had a particularly superb run of movies throughout the 1940s and ’50s and Rififi almost seems to stand as the finishing post for his best streak. Not that he churned out anything awful after this. Topkapi, for example, wasn’t until 1964. It just wasn’t up there with his very best.
He’s helped here by a great cast, all revolving around a strong and tough central performance from Jean Servais. Servais is not playing a very nice character but his loyalty and care for certain individuals shines through so brightly that he becomes someone to root for. Carl Mohner is more immediately likable, playing a family man who wants to help out on the score of a lifetime, and Marie Sabouret deserves to be mentioned for her turn as Mado, a woman shown to be tough, just as loyal as the lead character, and also rather sad.
Dassin also wrote the script, in collaboration with Rene Wheeler and Auguste Le Breton (who wrote the original novel), and this also proves to be a major plus. Each character is fleshed out, each one feels like a full human, as opposed to just someone with a special skillset for the job in hand, and the connections come into sharp focus just as the third act of the film shows them potentially being threatened. And it goes without saying that the detailing of the central heist feels perfect.
Why go on about this? If, like me, you’ve delayed a viewing of this movie for far too long then rectify that now. It’s a classic. You won’t regret giving it two hours of your time.
DIRECTOR: JULES DASSIN
WRITER: JULES DASSIN, RENE WHEELER, AUGUSTE LE BRETON (WHO ALSO WROTE THE SOURCE NOVEL)
STARS: JEAN SERVAIS, CARL MOHNER, ROBERT MANUEL, MARIE SABOURET, JANINE DARCEY, PIERRE GRASSET
RUNTIME: 122 MINS APPROX