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A twisting, turning tale of four ex-cons who hatch one last glorious heist in the City of Lights. At once naturalistic and expressionistic, a melange of suspense, brutality, and dark humor.
For more about Rififi and the Rififi Blu-ray release, see Rififi Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on May 3, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Starring: Jean Servais, Carl Möhner, Robert Manuel (I), Jules Dassin, Robert Hossein, Magali Noël
Director: Jules Dassin
» See full cast & crew
Rififi Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, May 3, 2011
Winner of Best Director Award at the Cannes Film Festival, Jules Dassin's "Du rififi chez les hommes" a.k.a "Rififi" (1955) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of British distributors Arrow Films. The supplemental features on the disc include original theatrical trailer; video introduction to the film by French cinema scholar, critic and author Ginette Vincendeau; video interview with director Jules Dassin; and Q & A session with director Jules Dassin. In French, with optional English subtitles for the main feature. Region-B "locked".
A few days after he is released from prison, Tony Le Stephanois (Jean Servais, Heroes and Sinners, He Who Must Die), a famous Parisian thief, is visited by his former partners Jo (Carl Mohner, The Last Bridge) and Mario (Robert Manuel, It Takes a Thief). They want to know if he might be interested in a job which, if handled right, would allow them to retire. They describe the job to Tony and he immediately agrees to help, though not because he is dying to get rich, but because the job sounds almost impossible to pull off. Shortly after, the thieves are joined by Cesar (Jules Dassin), an expert safe-cracker from Milan.
While getting ready for the job, Tony runs into his old girlfriend Mado (Marie Sabouret, Frou-Frou), who has started seeing an influential gangster named Pierre Grutter (Marcel Lupovici, Mademoiselle Docteur). They head to his apartment where Tony leaves a few scars on her beautiful body and then kicks her out. Later on, Tony meets Pierre in his night club but decides not to confront him before his men.
A couple of days later, Tony, Jo, Mario, and Cesar hit one of the most prestigious jewel stores in Paris. Everything goes according to plan and they walk away with a bag full of diamonds worth millions of francs. They hide the diamonds and contact a man who could exchange them for cash. The same night, Cesar decides to have a little bit of fun with a beautiful singer from Pierre's club. He gives her a ring, which quickly ends up with one of Pierre's men.
Things become complicated when Pierre realizes what Tony and his friends have done but instead of informing the police kidnaps Jo's son and demands that they give him the diamonds. Tony warns Jo to stay cool and goes after Pierre's men.
A gangster film that has influenced generations of film directors around the world, Jules Dassinï¿½s Rififi blends the intensity and elegance of film noir with the playfulness and exuberance of the nouvelle vague. Rififi is also a notably dark film in which innocence is in very short supply.
The robbery that takes place halfway through the film is legendary. It lasts approximately half an hour and it is completely devoid of dialog. The communication between the thieves is done through simple gestures and looks. When they finally enter the jewelry store and open the safe, the tension is almost unbearable.
As the story progresses, the film gets darker and grittier but not as fatalistic as it could have been. Eventually, the famous code of honor is also brought up, though it is not used to glamorize gangster lifestyle.
The cast is excellent. Servais is terrific as Tony, the quiet but dangerous thief who likes to be challenged and despises liars. It is always difficult to read him. Naturally, a lot of his decisions, especially during the final third of the film, are quite surprising.
Mohner and Manuel's protagonists give the film a sense of authenticity. They are simple, vulnerable men with big ambitions who decide to risk everything they have to get rich. Director Dassin also does not disappoint as the Milanese womanizer Cesar who makes a crucial mistake.
Rififi is lensed by renowned French cinematographer Philippe Agostini (Robert Bresson's Les dames du Bois de Boulogne, Marcel Pagnol's Topaze). The film's soundtrack was composed by the great Georges Auric (Jean Cocteau's Beauty and the Beast, Henri-Georges Clouzot's The Wages of Fear).
Note: In 1955, Rififi won Best Director Award at the Cannes Film Festival.
Rififi Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Jules Dassin's Rififi arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of British distributors Arrow Films.
The high-definition transfer the British distributors have used for their Blu-ray release of Jules Dassin's legendary gangster film is beautiful. In fact, it is the very best high-definition transfer I've seen used for a Blu-ray release of a classic B&W French film on both sides of the Atlantic.
Fine object detail is exceptional. The image has remarkable depth and fluidity, while contrast levels are simply superb. Naturally, close-ups and larger panoramic scenes look stunning. Color reproduction is also fantastic - the blacks are rich and well saturated, while the variety of grays and whites look natural and healthy. I was particularly impressed by the various club scenes from the first half of the film. Edge-enhancement is never an issue of concern; neither is macroblocking. I also did not spot any aliasing patterns or artifacting plaguing the transfer. Excessive noise corrections have not been performed either. As a result, there is a fine light layer of grain that is present throughout the entire film. Lastly, aside from a few inherited shaky frame transitions there are no serious stability issues to report in this review. Also, I did not see any large scratches, marks, stains, debris, or flecks. All in all, Jules Dassin's Rififi is clearly the best release in Arrow Films' unique film catalog. (Note: This is a Region-B "locked" Blu-ray disc. Therefore, you must have a native Region-B or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
Rififi Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There is only one audio track on this Blu-ray disc: French LPCM 1.0. For the record, Arrow Films have provided optional English subtitles for the main feature.
Similar to the video treatment, the audio treatment is very impressive. The French LPCM 1.0 track opens up the entire film quite well - Georges Auric's music score has received a strong dynamic boost, while the dialog is crisp, clean, stable, and very easy to follow. What also impresses is the fact that background hiss, which many of these classic French gangster films are plagued with, is very effectively addressed (I recently saw Ralph Habib's La loi des rues, featuring the great Jean-Louis Trintignant and Silvana Pampanini, and the film was practically unwatchable because of the overwhelming background hiss). Finally, the English translation is indeed very good.
Rififi Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Rififi Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
British distributors Arrow Films have put together a fantastic package for Jules Dassin's Rififi. In fact, I feel confident stating that this is their best Blu-ray release to date. I hope Criterion find a way to license the high-definition transfer Arrow Films have used so that North America could also get a Blu-ray release of this legendary film. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
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