Starring Jean Servais, Robert Hossein, Carl Mohner and Janine Darcey
Written by Auguste Le Breton, Jules Dassin and Rene Wheeler
Directed by Jules Dash
Running time 117 minutes
Our last movie - A Fish Called Wanda - was about the comic aftermath of a diamond robbery. Rififi is about a heist of a very different kind and is perhaps the finest film noir ever to come out of France.
It tells the story of Tony - a down on his luck jewel thief, who with his gang devises a plan to commit the seemingly impossible robbery of a jewellery shop in Paris.
Rififi was directed by an expatriate American - Jules Dassin. Dassin had made a series of first-rate crime movies like Brute Force and The Naked City in the US but moved to France in the early 1950s when he was blacklisted and prevented from working in Hollywood for his political views.
Rififi was originally set to be directed by Jean Pierre Melville, one of the greatest French filmmakers in the crime genre. Dassin adapted the screenplay from a bestselling novel and made some significant alterations of plot and character. The greatest change was to turn the robbery itself into the centrepiece of the film - a half hour sequence without music and featuring almost no dialogue which is a master class in suspense imitated in numerous other pictures since including Ocean’s Eleven.
Rififi was more than once accused of being a lesson in how to commit a robbery and was subsequently banned in a number of countries when imitation burglaries took place !
Dassin won the best director award at the Cannes Festival and when Rififi became a success in the United States he was soon allowed to work there again. However he made most of his subsequent films in Europe going on to marry the Greek politician and singer Melina Mercouri.