Though released in the same year as another memorable French caper film, Bob Le Flambeur, American expat Jules Dassin’s Rififi was diametrically opposite to the delicious Jean-Pierre Melville film. Where the former was light-hearted and stylish, the latter was tense and bleak – more akin to its American counterparts The Asphalt Jungleand The Killing. When world-weary and ageing former convict is given the idea of a neat job by his pals, you know there’s trouble waiting for them. They, along with an Italian safe-cracker, exquisitely plan and rob a near-impregnable jewelry shop – the half-hour long heist sequence, shown in meticulous detail, is a display of dazzling audacity – only to be undone by a moment of human weakness. Soon enough there’s the Italian (played by Dassin himself) breaking the most sacred rule among criminals, that you don’t rat on your friends, followed by kidnap, gang violence and murder, and culminating, not unexpectedly, in a fatalistic ending commensurate with the school of filmmaking it belongs to. Boasting of great set-pieces, not least of all being the classic robbery sequence, the lusciously shot film also forms a hard-boiled ode to Paris, anything but the City of Lights if this landmark, doom-laden film noir were to go by.
Director: Jules Dassin Genre: Crime Thriller/Film Noir/Heist Film/Gangster Language: French Country: France