Rififi (1955)

Rififi (1955) movie poster

director Jules Dassin
viewed: 01/22/2017 at the Castro Theatre, SF, CA

A few big differences since I first saw Jules Dassin’s masterpiece, Rififi. This time, watched it as part of the Noir City festival at the Castro Theater, alongside my kids. In the intervening 8 years since I first saw it, I’ve managed to see a number of Dassin’s other film noirs. Rififi was the first of Dassin’s films I ever saw and I knew little or nothing of him specifically at the time.

One big thing that is still utterly the same is the film itself and its brilliance.

That Dassin, however French his name may look and sound, was American is significant. He was blacklisted in Hollywood, chased from the country, and harassed even from afar to find employment in film. Rififi was the first film he made in France and the first he had made in 5 years, after the also brilliant Night and the City (1950), filmed in London. Top that off with featuring as a great character performance himself in the film as César “le Milanais”, what did he NOT do?

The heist is the film’s centerpiece and is duly and rightfully praised and influential, but the whole of the film is amazing. Paris is a bleak yet beautiful backdrop to the criminal activities and the rain-soaked streets emblematic of the fatalistic reality of the common man, even if he is a common criminal.

The brutality toward his nightclub moll is the one troubling aspect of the film for me. Women are rarely treated well in noir, but the nasty beating Tony (Jean Servais) metes out to her, while it makes contextual sense in the narrative, is still rather hard to sit with. Tony is, in the end, a good guy, and women, in the end, are largely functional or decorative in the film. So. Yeah. Anyhow.

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