Rififi – Day Thirty Nine – #40movies40days

imagesRififi is a 1955 French crime film that is probably the basis of every intricate heist movie you’ve ever seen.  It was recommended to me by a reader and what a delicious surprise!  The plot revolves around a burglary at a jewelry shop in the Rue de Rivoli (a very ritzy shopping area equivalent to 5th Avenue in New York or Rodeo Drive in Los Angeles).  I won’t go into many details because that would ruin the surprise.

According to Wikipedia “The film was banned in some countries due to its lengthy heist scene, referred to by a Los Angeles Times reviewer as a “master class in breaking and entering as well as filmmaking”.  The Mexican interior ministry banned the film because of a series of burglaries mimicking the robbery protrayed. Rififi was also banned in Finland. In answer to critics who saw the film as an educational process that taught people how to commit burglary, the director, Jules Dassin claimed the film showed how difficult it was to actually carry out a crime (and get away with it).”

After he was blacklisted from Hollywood, Dassin, found work in France. He shot Rififi on a low budget and without a star cast.  Although like Fellini, Dassin has a keen eye for wonderful faces.  Authenticity is better than star power any day, in my book.

The film was offered distribution in the United States on the condition that Dassin renounce his past, declaring that he was duped into subversive associations. Otherwise, his name would be removed from the film as the writer and director. Dassin refused and the film was released by United Artists who set up a dummy corporation as the distributing company. The film was distributed successfully in America with Dassin listed in the credits; making him the first director to break the Hollywood blacklist.

What impressed me the most was a 30 minute segment almost completely without dialogue during the tension-filled jewel heist.  It’s choreographed to keep you riveted in suspense.  Sexual jealousy, friendship and betrayal make make this a must see Power of Truth classic.

Yet again a film looks at how we are haunted by our past.  Without examining the past and transcending it we are doomed to repeat whatever it was that got us into trouble in the first place.

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