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RIFIFI (1955)

Tony (Jean Servais), a veteran Parisian thief who's just been released from prison, is approached by two of his underworld friends, Jo (Carl Mohner) and Mario (Robert Manuel) who are planning a smash-and-grab raid on a jewellery store. At first Tony is reluctant to get involved. But after discovering that his old girlfriend, Mado (Marie Sabouret) has taken up with another man, he changes his mind, suggesting a more ambitious plan and enlisting the help of an expert safe-cracker, Cesare (Perlo Vita). The robbery is meticulously planned and looks set to go off without a hitch, but it only takes one error of judgement to bring the whole plan crashing down.

"A welcome re-release of a film that’s widely regarded as a classic but probably hasn’t been seen by many people locally in a while. Made by the American director Jules Dassin after he was blacklisted and forced to leave Hollywood, it’s a rather studied Parisian gangster thriller. The characters are types – the cynical old pro, the vulnerable young wife – and the fatalistic themes are leant on as conventions rather than explored. But Rififi’s place in cinema history is secured by the elaborate, influential heist sequence at its centre: twenty minutes of absorbing wordless action, demonstrating step-by-step how you drill through a ceiling, muffle an alarm-bell, and crack a safe. It’s a tour-de-force comparable to the one Robert Zemeckis recently achieved in Castaway, with its similarly patient, procedural depiction of how Tom Hanks survives on a desert island. Both Dassin and Zemeckis have a concern with practical problem-solving that (we’re invited to notice) informs their attitude to the craft of cinema itself – all the components of both films are meant to click together like the parts of a watch. With Rififi, it’s particularly impressive that the tension is kept up in the second half, building to another set-piece action sequence that combines an expertly staged and edited shootout with a tense car journey making vivid use of Paris locations. In attempting to be the definitive heist movie, Rififi finally feels somewhat academic – it took another fifteen years for Jean-Pierre Melville to bring the genre into its late mannerist phase with The Red Circle (among other films). But as an impeccably crafted piece of entertainment this is definitely worth a look."
Jake Wilson

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RIFIFI (1955) (PG)

CAST: Jean Servais, Carl Möhner, Robert Manuel, Jules Dassin

DIRECTOR: Jules Dassin

PRODUCER: René Gaston Vuattoux

SCRIPT: Auguste Le Breton (novel), Jules Dassin, René Wheeler, Auguste Le Breton

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Philippe Agostini

EDITOR: Roger Dwyre

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Auguste Capelier, Alexandre Trauner

MUSIC: Georges Auric, M. Philippe-Gérard (song)

RUNNING TIME: 115 minutes


AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: June 14 (Melb Only), July 5 (Syd Only)

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