Rififi (1955, Jules Dassin)

Tony (Jean Servais of Le Plaisir and Thomas the Impostor) is a down-on-his-luck gambler (is there any other kind of gambler?) just out of jail. His ex-girl Mado has taken up with dangerous gangster Pierre Grutter. But Tony’s family-man brother Jo has a plan for a jewelry heist that will get ’em back on top, so they recruit a couple more guys.

L-R: Jo, Mario, Tony, Cesar (Dassin himself):

What follows is one of the best heist scenes in the movies – a half-hour of tense work with no music or dialogue, tunnelling through floor of an above apartment (using inverted umbrella to catch their own dust), disabling alarm by spraying its insides with a fire extinguisher, then drilling the safe, all barely in time as outside, police notice the getaway car.

Bunuelian nightclub – set designer Alexandre Trauner worked on both pictures:

Viviane (Magali Noel, a Fellini hottie in Satyricon and Amarcord) singing the film’s theme song:

Safe escape is made, but Grutter and his gang (including a dopehead brother) know who’s behind the heist and figure they can take Tony’s ramshackle gang. Safecracker Cesar is kidnapped after giving a pocketed jewel to Viviane (she thinks it’s fake anyway), later executed by Tony. Mario (Robert Manuel of La Vie est un roman) and his wife Ida are killed by the Grutters, and Jo’s young son is kidnapped. Some confusion ensues and Jo gets himself killed after his brother has already retrieved the kid. Great scene as Tony speeds home with the kid and money in back seat, outrunning his fatal gunshot wound.

Tony drives his nephew home:

Cesar death scene:

Dassin’s triumphant euro-comeback after getting blacklisted from Hollywood, winning him best director at Cannes.

J. Hook on the heist: “It is a scene you’ve seen before (shameless imitators have been cannibalizing it for decades), but you will never see it so purely, respectfully done as here.” His article is nice, gushing about the movie’s greatness then finally revealing how and why that greatness might have come about.

Tony with Mado:

Gangsters at Mario and Ida’s house:

Related posts