Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Rififi Director, Jules Dassin, Blacklisted, Dies at 96

I may have only paid glancing notice to this obit, based on the element of it being a blacklisted director.

But the name, "Jules Dassin" carried my full attention to it, for Dassin made, IMHO (and a a lot of others) the greatest crime caper film of all time.

Jules Dassin directed "Rififi".

Rififi is classic Film Noir, tense, pulsating and with an unbelievable nerve-shattering segment of the heist.

Jules Dassin, 96; blacklisted director was master of film noir

Mr. Dassin, considered one of the leading American filmmakers of the postwar era, directed his most influential film, "Rififi," while living in France after being blacklisted as a communist in the early 1950s. "Rififi" earned him a best director award at the Cannes Film Festival in 1955. Turan noted that "Rififi's" influence "is hard to overstate." The critic wrote that one section of the film is "a model of tension and precision." In the sequence, Mr. Dassin spends "a full 30 minutes on the actual robbery, a completely wordless half-hour (though it makes good use of sound effects) that racks the nerves and provides a master class in breaking and entering, as well as filmmaking."

From Wikipedia;
Rififi is based on a novel by Auguste le Breton; le Breton assisted in adapting it to film. However, Dassin expanded the safe-cracking job, which is negligible in the book, into a 32-minute sequence that occupies a fourth of the running time and is played entirely without dialogue or music, intensifying the suspense. So meticulous is the construction and so specific the detail of this scene that the Mexican interior ministry banned the movie because there were a series of robberies mimicking it.

From an essay, by James Hook;
And yet, even in a film of such generous superlatives, something does stand out, towering over it all. For Rififi is that most hallowed of films, a film that contains a monument within. Like the Grand Hall ball in The Magnificent Ambersons or the pickpocketing sequence in Pickpocket or the crop-duster chase in North by Northwest, the virtually silent, gleefully long heist scene at the center of Rififi is a tingling, ecstatic, sustained act of brilliance—a sacrament of the cinema. For an astounding 33 minutes, Dassin removes all dialogue, hushing the soundtrack to the mere sounds of breath—the accidental note from a piano is enough to stop your heart—as we observe the criminal team at work, breaking through the floor, silencing alarms, cracking safes, checking watches, and signaling each other. It is a scene you’ve seen before (shameless imitators have been cannibalizing it for decades), but you will never see it so purely, respectfully done as here.

Rififi (1954) Roger Ebert / September 1, 2002

I highly recommend, the next film rental you make, or purchase, check out Rififi, you will not, repeat, you will not be disappointed.

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