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"du rififi chez les hommes (rififi)" (1955) - jules dassin
posted on 11-Oct-2002 by anton
the timing could not have been better for watching this film - first day of fall, with the usual reflective mindset, perfectly matched with the misty black & white cinematography of rififi.

director's conscious choice to shoot only during overcast weather resulted in a series of incredible stills, with glistening sidewalks, gritty underpasses, inviting cozy coffee-shops (I had to pause and make some coffee after the coffee-shop conversation at the beginning of the film - the sight of the characters re-arranging their coffee cups was too hard to resist).

it's been a while since I've seen a truly noir classic - without the usual post-modernist reflection, without hollywood's overwhelming hyperkinetic gloss or dogma's superrealism. its grittiness only accentuates the elegancy of characters (how anyone can resist stylish ever-present suits and ties, or hats, casting dramatic shadows across their faces?!). notice that there are no fighting scenes, so popular in the hollywood movies of the time - rififi's gun shot scenes are worthy of framing.

attention to details in rififi is remarkable. take the heist scene - an incredible half-an hour sequence without any music or any dialogue - perfectly choreographed to the last detail, including ballet shoes put on by the director himself, playing the safecracker. this scene became a centerpiece of the movie, spawning countless imitations, although originally the book the film is based upon dedicated just a few pages to it.

every single character in rififi earned a life beyond this picture, revived again and again by directors throughout the years. for me they became an embodiment of french "outlaw literature" from françois villon to jean genet. this resemblance becomes even more striking, considering the fact that the director himself was practically outlawed during mccarthy's persecution in the states just a few years prior to making rififi. naturally, this is a film that is almost required for anyone trying to trace the roots of the genre.

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