Directed by: Jules Dassin
Starring: Jean Servais, Carl Möhner, Robert Manuel, Janine Darcey
Francois Truffaut called Jules Dassin’s Rififi (1955) the best film noir ever made. The irony to that is that it wasn’t even a movie that Dassin — an American working in Europe after being black-listed by House Un-American Activities Committee — had wanted to make. That it would become his most famous film and serve as a template for the subgenre heist movie was the last thing on Dassin’s mind. He merely needed the money. That it became a hit on which he could rebuild his career and serve as a poke in the eye HUAC — that’s just the happy outcome. The film is best-known for its “silent” (there are sound effects, but no dialogue or music) 28-minute safe-cracking sequence, but that’s hardly the only thing that makes the film worthwhile. It’s simply a riveting crime drama — one of those stories where a so-called “perfect crime” goes wrong because of the human factor. It doesn’t seem especially revelatory now, but it was then, since nothing like it had been done before. Revelatory or not, Dassin’s mastery of filmmaking — not to mention his genius for location shooting — keeps the film an amazing experience even today.
Classic World Cinema by Courtyard Gallery will present Rififi Friday, Aug. 30, at 8 p.m. at Phil Mechanic Studios, 109 Roberts St., River Arts District (upstairs in the Railroad Library). Info: 273-3332, www.ashevillecourtyard.com
In Brief: Jules Dassin’s Rififi (1955) is the grandfather of all heist movies, and its standout, 28-minute safe-cracking sequence (done with neither dialogue, nor background score) remains a harrowing piece of filmmaking on its own. But the striking thing is that this centerpiece is not the conclusion of the film, nor is it really the focus of the drama, which has more to do with the aftermath of the robbery. Truffaut called it the best of all film noir, and while that may be overstating the case, it is nonetheless a remarkable work.