Based on an Albert Simonin gangster novel, Touchez pas au grisbi (1954) is an atmospheric classic of film noir, superb acting, great script & direction, & an edgy tale.
An aging but nevertheless tres cool gentleman-gangster, Max (Jean Gabin, one of the greatest screen actors the world has ever known), is sitting on millions in stolen gold bullion.
He has to be careful not just of the police, but of a younger gangster, Angelo (Lino Ventura), who is nosing around.
An even greater threat is his contemporary aging gangster & lifelong friend Riton (Rene Dary) who true to form has made the mistake of bragging to Josy (Jeanne Moreau) that he'll be well-set one day soon. Max has a young gal, too, Lola (Dora Doll), but none of Riton's insecurity. He knows how & when to keep his mouth shut.
Riton has a tendency to slap Josy around for using drugs or just because he can. So before long she has dumped him for Angelo, who gets her drugs.
The decorations at the edges of the story are great, from rooftops to the trashily hip Moulon Rouge nightclub Mystific, with the club's gorgeously tacky chorus line in which Josy & Lola perform.
The hiest is already completed as the story opens, & friendships & other interpersonal relationships make up the bulk of the film's first half. It's about the life of an aging gangster who everyone likes, but few imagine such an old guy could still be so deep in the game as to have been the one who stole the bullion. If all had gone as perfectly planned, he & Riton would never fall under the slightest suspicion.
Max intended to retire on this last job & hates it that Riton's loose talk may put them in the way of having to rub out a couple of guys merely to survive.
When Riton gets grabbed by Angelo's henchmen, he's really caused his own grief. Can Max abandon him after twenty years of putting up with just such idiocy? He tries to.
He's enraged by Riton's stupidity, blames him for all the troubles of their long criminal partnership, resents having numerous times over the years having had to save him from his own foolishness.
But ultimately such thoughts make him feel, "I'm a real bastard." He goes to get his young friend Marco (Michel Jourdan) & they set off on a mission to save a friend, good gangsters versus bad gangsters.
Then again, what means "good" gangsters? Club owner Fats Peirrot (Paul Frankeur), long seemingly the most innocuous fellow in Max's circle, when the chips are down thinks nothing of torturing drug dealing punk Ramon (Vittorio Sanipoli) to get information for Max.
So what makes these gangsters "good" guys is brotherhood. Within their alliances & friendships they can be trusted, no matter the ill deeds they do.
After trading the bullion for Riton, that's when the real action begins, the last bloodbath of Max's long career. With the gorgeous b/w cinematography & Jean Wiener's splendid soundtrack imitated for The Godfather, we are immersed, beginning to end, in a masterpiece.
copyright © by Paghat the Ratgirl