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Rififi
Buy the DVD  Barnes & Noble.com
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Genre:Art/Foreign
Year:1955
Rating:NR
Length:1 Hour 58 Minutes
Cast:Jules Dassin, Jean Servais, Carl Mohner, Robert Manuel

The plot is brutally simple: Four ex-cons; a jewelry store heist; fatal results. A critical and commercial smash in France upon its release in 1955, it set enduring standards for heist films, inspiring copies and parodies alike. (Two of the best: the hysterical Big Deal on Madonna Street and director Jules Dassin's own Topkapi, which also includes a breathtaking, 30-minute break-in sequence sans music or dialogue.) Yet, until it was restored in 2000, Rififi -- with its doomed ragtag antihero archetypes and technical bravura -- was almost lost. Dassin was no stranger to noir standards, having minted some of them himself Stateside in The Naked City and Brute Force. By the early 1950s, though, he found himself in the cross hairs of the House Un-American Activities Committee, blacklisted because of his refusal to name names, and exiled to Europe. The price of squealing resonates throughout Rififi. In the opening scene, Tony the St‚phanois (a note-perfect, saggy faced Jean Servais) has just served a debilitating 5-year prison sentence, taking the fall for his younger partner, Jo the Swede. In the meantime, an old accomplice, Mario (Robert Manuel) hatches a scheme to knock off an upper crust Parisian jeweler, and drawing in Jo, Tony and an ace safecracker, Cesar the Milanese (Dassin, speaking Italian and acting under the pseudonym "Perlo Vita"). The heist is coolly efficient; but a rival gangster wants in after the fact. The DVD special features include a video interview with Dassin, who shares a delightful and frightening anecdote about his meeting with the author of the novel, Auguste Le Breton, among other insights. Among other DVD highlights, the lavish production drawings of Rififi's naturalistic sets afford a fascinating soupcon of irony. Eddy Crouse

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