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RIFIFI (Not Rated)
Rialto Pictures
Director: Jules Dassin
Producer: Rene Gaston Vuattoux, Rene Bezard, Henri Berard, Pierre Cabaud
Written by: Jules Dassin, Rene Wheeler, & August Le Breton based on Le Bretonís novel, Du rififi chez le hommes
Cast: Jean Servais, Carl Mohner, Robert Manuel, Jules Dassin, Marie Sabouret, Marcel Lupovici

Rating: out of 5


The centerpiece of Dassinís 1955 film noir classic is a taut, suspenseful break-in to a Parisian jewelry store (a sort of French equivalent to Tiffanyís) fortified with the latest in alarm technology. The break-in is shot in almost utter silence, other than a few muffled thumps and the sounds of the simple tools the burglars use to do the job. Itís an electrifying, nail-biting, 30-minute sequence and, if you havenít seen RIFIFI yet, is instantly recognizable as what must have been the inspiration for myriad break-in scenes to come.

Dour tough guy, Tony le Stephanois (Servais, wearing one of the world-weariest looks ever throughout the film), leads a quartet of thieves on the aforementioned heist. Itís that one big score that will set Tony and his friends up for life. Tony is reluctant to lead the crew, just coming out of a five-year stint in the pen, but gambling debts and his frustration with former love Mado (Sabouret) help convince him that associates Jo (Mohner, who looks like a íroided-up French version of Greg Kinnear) and Mario (Manuel) may actually be on to something with what seems like an impossible mission. Add safe-cracking, gal-crazy Cesar le Milanais (director Dassin, channeling the spirit of David Niven) and the crew is ready to go.

The film breaks up into three segments: the crew, the break-in and the aftermath. Itís pretty standard stuff these days but the world shown in RIFIFI doesnít even come close to existing anymore. Everything is dim, smoky jazz clubs filled with curvaceous girls and gangsters, dark alleys, shadows, and a gorgeously foggy Paris captured through the expert lenses of Phillipe Agostini. Everything is at once familiar to the modern moviegoer because itís been imitated and shuffled around innumerable times. But Dassinís movie deserves not only credit for what it does, but also a viewing by those who havenít seen it before.

óJonpaul Guinn

hybridCinema Ratings Guide:

Take a pal and pay full price for both tickets.

Itís worth a full-price ticket.

Itís worth a matinee ticket.

Wait for video rental.

Check out the video from the library, if you must.

While we would never encourage anyone to destroy a video...


Mike Doughty



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