Rififi is a classic film noir, based on a novel by Auguste Le Breton, now restored with assistance from Jules Dassin himself for 35 mm & Criterian DVD release. The title is difficult to translate but was a slang term that somewhat means or "rival hostilities" as between two gangs. If "Rumble" were an attitude & a little less literalness, it would carry the same weight of meaning as "Rififi."
This is a "one last heist" caper film of the sort that inevitably turns out to be "one heist too many." Dassin plays a signal role in the film as the safecracker "Cesar the Milanese" though in the credits the role is identified pseudonymously. He probably took the role because funds were insufficient to pay one more actor, but he just about steals the show he's so unctuously startling.
Dassin was an American film director & husband of the great Greek actress Melina Mercouri. He directed great films in London & Paris after being blacklisted in the McCarthy era. He won critical accolades (including for Rififi Best Director at Cannes), & boxoffice successes in Europe, while America was denied his genius.
When done right -- & it's never been done better than in Rififi which defines the theme -- it's hard to beat a good heist film. When events go sour, I felt emotion for the characters, for both the good & the bad.
A winner throughout, Rififi is gorgeously filmed in haunting black & white. Every outdoor scene was shot on overcast days to increase the gloominess of the shadowy cinematography.
It's beautifully acted by a cast headed up by Jean Servais. Because Dassin's budget was too small to hire top actors, he took a chance with Belgian actor Servais whose alcoholism had damaged his career, a lucky casting for actor & director alike. Servais' face is so creased & boozy, his look is as close to Bogart as anyone who wasn't Bogart ever came. The supporting cast is also exciting, including the then unheard-of actress Magali Noel, who went on to become one of Fellini's sexy stars.
Though not as well known to American filmgoers as it should be, Rififi is one of the most influential crime films ever made, & its influence can still be felt to this day in just about every caper film that gets made.
copyright © by Paghat the Ratgirl