Rififi: French Film Guide (Cine-Files: the French Film Guides)
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Du rififi chez les hommes (1955), directed by the exiled American film director Jules Dassin, recounts the nail-biting tale of a Parisian gangster heist gone wrong. Famed for its extended dialogue free robbery sequence, it is both a classic French film noir and one of the greatest, most influential crime films. In this lively companion to the film, Alastair Phillips reveals Dassin’s role as a director of socially conscious Hollywood film noir and argues that his seminal contribution to the regeneration of the thriller in post war France therefore uniquely complicated relations between French genre cinema and American mass culture.
Phillips also examines the film's innovative narrative construction and use of sound, its performance style and mise-en-scène, and discusses the film's legacy, showing how even today, the term ""Rififi"" remains a byword for both criminal glamor and the enduring virtues of French popular classical filmmaking.
beginning of the film, but it also reinforces the crucial distinction already observed between the French and American traditions of depicting urban space in film noir. Whereas the American city was largely seen as a site of anonymity or alienation, especially in such landmark texts as The Big Heat and Double Indemnity, the French city could still be capable of being mapped by a set of navigable routes and familiar domesticated landmarks. As if to reinforce this point, Dassin subsequently chooses
O’Shaughnessy La Haine (Mathieu Kassovitz, 1995) – Ginette Vincendeau La Règle du jeu (Jean Renoir, 1939) – Keith Reader La Reine Margot (Patrice Chereau, 1994) – Julianne Pidduck Le Corbeau (Henri-Georges Clouzot, 1943) – Judith Mayne Les Diaboliques (Henri-Georges Clouzot, 1955) – Susan Hayward Nikita (Luc Besson, 1990) – Susan Hayward Rififi (Jules Dassin, 1955) – Alastair Phillips Un chien andalou (Luis Buñuel, 1929) – Elza Adamowicz (Jules Dassin, 1955) Alastair Phillips Published in
opposed to American ones was 48.6 per 58 cent to 33.4 per cent. What these figures suggest is that, by the middle of the decade, the likelihood of any mainstream French film by an established Hollywood director attracting negative opprobrium had declined dramatically compared with just ten years previously. What mattered more was the film’s actual take on French society and, as we have seen, Dassin was the perfect figure to articulate a hybrid response to the resurgence in the popularity of the
REVIEWING RIFIFI 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 95 Le Film Français, 6 May 1955, p. 35. IDHEC file on Du rififi chez les hommes (Bifi library, Paris). Production and Distribution file CN1042 B546 (Bifi library, Paris). Siclier and Levy (1986) p. 21. With Sergei Vasilyev for Geroite na Shipka/Shipka Heroes (1955). Du rififi chez les hommes also later won the critics award for best film of 1956 from
the underworld’ of which Becker’s and Dassin’s films, despite their significant differences, may be said to be the most prominent and most enduring examples. Borde and Chaumeton also mentioned the popular success of the critically neglected cycle of low-budget, humorous crime action films begun with André Hunebelle’s trilogy starring Raymond Rouleau –Mission 14 RIFIFI à Tanger (1949), Méfiez-vous des blondes (1950) and Massacre en dentelles (1951) – and continued by Bernard Borderie’s début