Rififi (1955) [The Criterion Collection #115]

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Rififi (1955) [The Criterion Collection #115]

Rififi (1955) [The Criterion Collection #115]
DVD9 (VIDEO_TS) Custom | NTSC 4:3 (720x480) | 01:58:35 | 7,67 Gb
Audio: #1 English and #2 French - AC3 1.0 @ 160 Kbps; #3 Russian (custom added) AC3 2.0 @ 192 Kbps
Subs: English, Russian (custom added) | Black & White | HQ Cover
Genre: Crime, Drama, Film-Noir | 4 wins | France

After making such American noir classics as The Naked City and Brute Force, blacklisted director Jules Dassin went to Paris and embarked on his masterpiece: a twisting, turning tale of four ex-cons who hatch one last glorious heist in the City of Lights. At once naturalistic and expressionistic, this melange of suspense, brutality, and dark humor was an international hit and earned Dassin the Best Director prize at the Cannes Film Festival.

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In France in 1955, director Jules Dassin got his first job after being blacklisted and made one of the first and best heist films of all time. Though ostensibly based on a weak novel, it owes more to American crime films such as John Huston's The Asphalt Jungle, which also follows a group of thieves through a robbery and the subsequent aftermath. But the characters in Rififi aren't as collected: there is great and deadly passion brimming under the service of their cool professionalism, and it is fascinating to see how the characters are both made and unmade by their inner demons.

Rififi (1955) [The Criterion Collection #115]

Rififi, paradoxically, is so lean and mean, down and dirty in its execution of its heist, the film's centerpiece, that is practically operatic. For 28 minutes, not a word is spoken, nor a note of music played: all we hear are grunts, footsteps, chiseling, drilling, and shuffling as the heist unfolds. It is as gripping as any such scene in the movies and directly inspired most of them.

Amidst all the logistics and mechanical details the film documents with crystal clarity, this never distracts from the film's focus on the characters, which is why the tension continues to escalate even after the heist is over. The final sequence, deceptively simple and chillingly effective, will not be quickly forgotten.
Rififi (1955) [The Criterion Collection #115]

Paris, the mid 1950's. Tony (Jean Servais) is a hood that knows he's not long for this world. He's got a nasty dose of tubercolosis that's threatening to bring his lungs up at any minute, and he's steadily drowning in a sea of gambling debts. His best days of thieving are behind him, until his young protege Jo (Carl Mohner) gets in touch. Jo is a young father and needs some money pretty quickly to support his family. The money is on display in the window of a jewellers, in the form of necklaces. A pretty easy smash and snatch job that Jo wants Tony to aid him with, alongside his friend the fun loving Mario (Robert Manuel). Once Jo lights that little fire in his stomach again however, Tony has bigger plans to rob the extremely well protected safe inside the jewellers. How to do that when the slightest noise will trigger the alarm? Why call in premier safe cracker and womaniser Cesar (director Jules Dassin under an assumed name) of course. And all the better to do it under the nose of his old enemy Farrati (Claude Sylvain)…

Rififi (1955) [The Criterion Collection #115]

For all the glamour, style and twisting intricacies that recent heist movies like 'Ocean's 11' or 'Confidence' have brought to us lately, there's always a slight feeling that a cheat has been pulled. Namely, that in this modern age, the computer and video have been the get-out clause of every heist-writing scriptwriter. Need to create street chaos in rush hour? No problem, just get a hacker to hack the system. Need to trick a casino owner into thinking his casino's being robbed? Again, no problem, just film a replica and then hack into his video system and filter it through. So for all the surprises that these situations throw up, there's always the sense that it's a bit too easy and lacks true ingenuity.

Rififi (1955) [The Criterion Collection #115]

'Rififi' has none of those problems. A film noir in the truest sense of the word, this is a heist that has no convenient computer program to fall back on or remote controlled van to draw attention away. This is a heist that relies purely on the combination of brawn, brain and balls, a little bit of luck and a hell of a lot of silence. Because if there's one thing 'Rififi' is famous for, and that you should see it for, it's the incredible heist sequence. 30 minutes long and shot with no dialogue or music. Because the slightest sound will alert every gendarme around.

Rififi (1955) [The Criterion Collection #115]

It's a fantastic piece of film-making that anyone has yet to better, Soderbergh included. A truly cunning piece of guile, the silence hooks you and draws you into the heist without you even realising it, until you've become as sweaty and as clammy as the thieves themselves. It's fascinating to watch a sequence like this to see just how a heist would be pulled off in those days. No Chinese acrobats in a box here, just the exceedingly clever use of a fire extinguisher, an umbrella and someone's broad shoulders.

Rififi (1955) [The Criterion Collection #115]

But is this a case of a film which is rated because of one solitary sequence? Not at all, 'Rififi' is one of the darkest and grittiest thrillers you could find. The Paris here, is not the city of love and romance. This is a pessimistic, rain-drenched, gloomy city still recovering from the devastation of WW2. And through the dank streets, still reduced to rubble in some cases, wanders Tony who knows that time isn't on his side on his anymore. Servais exudes a cool menace that has only really been matched by Bogart in his pomp. And even then, Bogey never made any of his characters this dark. Tony has virtually no redeeming qualities, beating his cheating girlfriend with a belt and hardly cracks a smile throughout. Yet we're drawn to his every move and fascinated as to just what ticks beneath his stoic exterior. Mohner is a much more likeable protagonist, blending in superbly well with Servais while Dassin and Manuel add a slight touch of comic relief, but never over-balancing the film and always convincing as criminals (director Dassin is particularly effective in his role). The four form a gang that are vivid and crackle with realism, culminating with a moment of terrible honesty between two of them as their plan falls down around their ears.

Rififi (1955) [The Criterion Collection #115]

Dassin also brings a bleak, hugely cynical edge to the film. No surprise that there is no room for sentiment or honour among thieves here, as Dassin was someone who was betrayed and blacklisted during the McCarthy era. So what does this exiled American do? Goes out and makes one of the finest crime thrillers ever, that's what.

It's a small wonder then, that Dassin paints loyalty as something that can only hold out under torture for so long, and once an oath is broken there's no going back for anyone. So when trouble does get unleashed as Farrati (a great villain and performance by Sylvain) realises just what's happened, it's trouble with a capital T. It's shocking to see a 50's film that has junkies for villains, who are set loose on the 'heroes' with straight razors. But this is how black and bleak 'Rififi' is. Even the final shoot-out lacks typical genre thrills, and is just slammed home with sobering honesty and violent truthfulness. This isn't an exercise in style however, like 'Breathless' which would follow around ten years later. This is a crime thriller that has no pretensions other than to thrill. In the toughest way possible.

Rififi (1955) [The Criterion Collection #115]

It's pretty common knowledge that Tarantino liberally based 'Reservoir Dogs' on Ringo Lam's 'City On Fire'. But if you want to see something that's just as tough, just as nasty and just as remorselessly thrilling (but without the blood and bad language) then go catch 'Rififi'. If Soderbergh's 'Ocean's 11' was essentially some very cool boys playing with toys, then 'Rififi' is the black stuff for the men in the house.
Rififi (1955) [The Criterion Collection #115]

Edition Details:
• Production notes
• Theatrical trailer
• New digital transfer, with fully restored picture and sound
• Exclusive video interview with director Jules Dassin (30:00/ in 4 separate chapters)
• Production design drawings and stills (69)
• New and improved English subtitle translation
• Optional English-dubbed soundtrack
Rififi (1955) [The Criterion Collection #115]

Note
Menus…………..: [X] Untouched
Video……………: [X] Untouched
DVD-extras…….: [X] Untouched
DVD-Audio……..: [X] Untouched
Rififi (1955) [The Criterion Collection #115]

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