- Jules Dassin
- Reviewed by
- Gon Curiel a.k.a. Groucho
- Review date
- Thursday, December 01, 2005
The heist genre… Does that even exist? Well, there sure are several movies dealing with that, be it comedies, dramas, or both. This one is a little bit of both actually, but it goes more for the drama… which doesn’t mean it’s not light entertainment in its own way!
The story follows Tony le Stéphanois, who just walked out of jail full of resentments and lacking the spark of life he used to have. His first thought is to find his ex, Mado les Grands Bras (Marie Sabouret), who is now living with a crook, Louis Grutter (Pierre Grasset). Tony literally punishes Mado, enraging Grutter. In the meantime, old friends and colleagues of Tony’s look for him to propose a new hit, that of a jewelry store. It’s incredibly ambitious, certainly one of the greatest thefts imaginable, so Tony figures, why not? He’s dead as it is, and things couldn’t get much worse. Joy abounds among the pals as he gives them green light.
The team is composed of Jo (Carl Möhner), Mario (Robert Manuel), and Cesar (Jules Dassin under the pseudonym Perlo Vita). Each has a specialty and all are pretty good, but led by le Stéphanois they’re invincible. The heist is planned and perpetrated with exquisite precision: In fact, the 32 minutes long heist sequence is a classic in itself for lacking dialogue and music, and being so perfectly shot (by Philippe Agostini) and edited (by Roger Dwyre). Certainly one of the most tense and exciting half hours in cinema history!
A film noir, Du rififi chez les homes doesn’t miss the opportunity to include delicious elements such as femmes fatales, a musical number, car chases, shootouts, betrayal, blackmail, and that deadly ambition. One could think that the theft is the climax, but it’s merely the core of the story: What happened before is crucial, and what happens afterwards is unforgettable. The balance of the story is perfection and every lose end is tied beautifully. Such audacious filmmaking…
As performances go, the whole cast is flawless, but Servais truly stands out for his sincere, heartfelt performance. I hear he gained notoriety for this role and that’s no surprise. Dassin’s performance is pretty great, especially given the significance of his character in a more universal context: Cesar is a metaphor for blacklist honor, or the opposite, and Dassin is a director who was punished by the American blacklist.
Kudos to musician Georges Auric (whose score is as effective when it’s on as it is when it’s off), and everyone involved in costume and production design.
This is a magnificent, must-see film.
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