Rififi Screen 10 articles



Rififi Poster
  • I didn't time the show, but if it plays for 100 minutes then perhaps 50 of them are worthy of praise. These comprise the first half—a beautifully detailed exposition of how to conduct a jewel robbery... Then, the jewels stolen, the getaway made, a dismaying thing happens: the picture turns sentimental.

  • The opening half-hour—the burglary of a jewelry store, filmed in meticulous detail—is as good as its inspiration in The Asphalt Jungle, but the film turns moralistic and sour in the last half, when the thieves fall out.

  • Highly acclaimed for the 35-minute robbery sequence, conducted without a word being spoken, and for the generally downbeat atmosphere, it's actually rather overrated, lacking the tension, profundity, and vivid characterisation of similar films by, say, Becker and Melville. Like even the best of Dassin's work, in fact, it never penetrates beneath its fashionable, self-conscious surface.

  • This is a familiar but effective parable of honor among thieves, and though it may not be as ideologically meaningful as the juicy noirs Dassin made for Hollywood—The Naked City (1947), Thieves' Highway (1949), and Night and the City (1950)—it's probably more influential, above all for its half-hour sequence without dialogue that meticulously shows the whole process of an elaborate jewelry heist.

  • Incredibly grim, and yet...superficially grim, somehow? Dassin's efforts to sidestep the source novel's racism, while admirable, appear to have neutered its tragic element; there's virtually no hint of the inexorability that packs such a wallop in Kubrick's The Killing (released just a year later). Consequently, Rififi peaks during its celebrated wordless heist sequence, which is gratifyingly procedural at a time when that sort of prolonged attention to minute detail was extremely rare.

  • For the French, Rififi had Hollywood pizzazz; for Americans, it exuded continental sophistication; for both, it possessed an authoritative naturalism, albeit one suffused with a sort of American-in-Paris enthusiasm for Pigalle after dark. For the rest of the world, it had all of the above... [Rififi is] the most stylish, cine-savvy, and studiously copied movie in the Dassin oeuvre—a potent blend of inside dope and outside exoticism.

  • Part of the key to Rififi’s genius is that no single element outshines another. Like a diamond, each facet of the film gleams as brightly: The performances, especially Jean Servais’ minimalist take on the dog-eared protagonist Tony and Dassin’s own lighthearted portrayal of the safecracker Cesar le Milanais (under the pseudonym Perlo Vita), are quite excellent. The cinematography is stunning, particularly the nighttime shots, where we see the sharp of Tony’s hat laid against smears of neon.

  • Rififi moves at an efficient and methodical pace, never wasting a minute as it barrels through the robbery and its bloody aftermath. But beyond the taut mechanics of Dassin's suspense thriller, the underworld backdrop seeps through with documentary-like clarity, as does the faint but irrepressible glint of compassion that Servais' brutality never quite snuffs out.

  • Though not made in the US, RIFIFI is possibly the greatest byproduct of the Hollywood blacklist... Today the film is most famous for the riveting heist sequence, a gorgeous and tense half-hour spent breaking into a jewelry store in total silence, the hushed robbers agonizing over the slightest sounds they make.

  • The brilliant and rightly heralded heist sequence clocks in at 34 minutes and remains as prime example of Dassin's full-blooded mastery of pace and studied eye for inventive symbols. The upside-down umbrella, collecting scraps of debris during the heist rather than shielding people from the elements, is a beguiling emblem of the director's vision of a world out of sync.

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