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Rififi (The Criterion Collection)

4.6 out of 5 stars 92 customer reviews

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(Apr 24, 2001)
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

After making such American noir classics as The Naked City and Brute Force, blacklisted director Jules Dassin went to Paris and embarked on his masterpiece: a twisting, turning tale of four ex-cons who hatch one last glorious heist in the City of Lights. At once naturalistic and expressionistic, this melange of suspense, brutality, and dark humor was an international hit and earned Dassin the Best Director prize at the Cannes Film Festival. Criterion is proud to present Rififi in a pristine digital transfer.


Hollywood's loss was Europe's gain when Jules Dassin fled America because of the House Un-American Activities Committee blacklist at the end of the 1940s. His films helped bring the moral ambiguity of the postwar American thriller to Europe, inspiring a new generation of critics and filmmakers. Writing several years before he made The 400 Blows, François Truffaut praised Dassin for the way his films "combin[ed] the documentary approach with lyricism," a method that would inform many of the new wave films of the '60s.

Rififi, shot on the rainy streets of Paris, is imbued with the same gritty realism that marked Dassin's earlier work in New York (The Naked City) and London (Night and the City). Jean Servais plays Tony le Stéphanois, an aging crook whose thin lips and tired, seen-it-all eyes give him a look somewhere between Humphrey Bogart and Harry Dean Stanton. Out of jail after a five-year stretch, he joins up with a couple of pals to pull one last heist: a jewel robbery that is portrayed in such detail (including tips on how to silence an alarm using a fire extinguisher) that the film was banned in several countries.

The robbery sequence alone, which lasts for 30 minutes and is played entirely without dialogue, would be enough to ensure Rififi's classic status, but there's a lot more to enjoy, including terrific performances from Marie Sabouret as Tony's world-weary ex-girlfriend, and from Dassin himself as a dandified Italian safecracker with an eye for the ladies. After the thrill of the heist, in the film's final scenes when, with the inevitability of the best films noirs everything falls apart, Dassin achieves the lyricism that Truffaut admired so much. By combining the conventions of a caper movie with his own brand of bleak nihilism, he made Rififi into a film that deserves to be counted among the best ever made.--Simon Leake

Special Features

  • New digital transfer, with fully restored picture and sound
  • Exclusive video interview with director Jules Dassin
  • Production design drawings and stills
  • New and improved English subtitle translation

Product Details

  • Actors: Jean Servais, Carl Möhner, Robert Manuel, Janine Darcey, Pierre Grasset
  • Directors: Jules Dassin
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Black & White, Color, Full Screen, NTSC, Subtitled
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono), French (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Criterion
  • DVD Release Date: April 24, 2001
  • Run Time: 122 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (92 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00005A8TX
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #35,817 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Rififi (The Criterion Collection)" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Robert Bezimienny on December 8, 2001
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
In an earlier review, I criticised the sound synchronisation - well, Criterion have rectified this problem in the current second printing. This information can be found at Criterion's revamped website, Criterionco.com, which is now very informative - there is a page devoted to known problems, and a page where you can alert them to any new problems you find; also you can ask general questions.
Technically, now, this film transfer is outstanding - the picture is superbly clear, better in fact than a restored print recently screened in Sydney.
For me, the film itself gets better with each viewing. Kind of amazing considering this is overtly a suspense thriller, where not knowing the outcome should be crucial - perhaps this reveals that it is more a character study, particularly a rumination on a character accepting his fate, a fate portrayed as virtually predestined. Also there is a sense that Dassin delights in the making of this picture - his performance as Cesare the Milanese is similarly brimming with enthusiastic charm. The production design by Alexandre Trauner (Les Enfants du Paradis) is another factor in allowing enjoyment to grow with each viewing - the film looks wonderful. There's a sense that each carefully considered part of the film is necessary, and that to change any would be to the detriment of the film as a whole - a little like the feeling inspired by a great musical symphony; possibly it's a little ironic then that the one questionable element is the title song! In the notes, Dassin is said to have rued his dismissal of an alternative, and at the time largely unknown, songwriter - Charles Aznavour!
It is also amazing to think that for decades this film was rarely available for public screening and not obtainable on video. It deserves to be seen by everyone with a love of cinema. A truly great film.
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Jules Dassin does have a seat of choice in the gallery of Movie History. The movies he directed in Hollywood in the late forties are now classics and his courage under the Mc Carthy era demands our utmost respect. Exiled in France, he directed RIFIFI aka " Du Rififi Chez Les Hommes " in 1954 based on a Série Noire novel of Auguste le Breton. And it's simply one of the best films noirs ever made.
Jean Servais is perfect as a french Bogart marked by tuberculosis, Robert Hossein, in his first role, terrifying as a drug addict tougher than George Raft and Jules Dassin himself, in the role of an italian bad guy, very convincing. Add a wonderful singing act of Magali Noël, the french starlet of the sixties, the great Alexandre - The Children of Paradise - Trauner as art director and the 30 minutes anthology scene, without musical score nor dialogs, of the robbery and you have a movie you can't neglect if you are a true movie lover.
The copy presented in this Criterion DVD release is definitive and the 25 minutes interview with Jules Dassin a bonus feature very appreciated. There is also the choice between the french subtitled version and a dubbed version for the lazy ones. How can you still hesitate ! Go, buy and be happy.
A DVD zone your library.
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Format: DVD
After something of a dry spell, Criterion has finally released a bunch of great DVDs this month. Their edition of "Rififi" - while probably not as well known as their mammoth "Spartacus" release - deserves a lot of praise. They've included an interview with the director, Jules Dassin (still alive at 90 years) and their remastered print has the stark clarity - and beauty - of the work they did on "The Third Man."
"Rififi" is almost the same caliber of "The Third Man." Its a crime story - its about a quartet of thieves who after pulling off a daring robbery (the robbery itself is an wonderfully extended silent sequence) and it has a lot of the "late-noir" ambience that the "Third Man" and "Touch of Evil" have. Jean Sevrais is fantastic as the ringleader although the film lacks the real dynamic characterizations that make "The Third Man" so compelling. Since "Rififi" has been made in so many incarnations - including "Reservoir Dogs" - its a bit predictable as well.
Still, "Rififi" is a wonderful film - an American noir (directed by an expatriate American living in France) that's been perfectly recast into its French surroundings. Buy, watch, and savour.
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This is not a review, but rather a word or two about the terrible problems with the sound synchronisation.
The film itself is one of the greats in the genre of crime thriller, and so it is a criminal shame that Criterion have released the film with a French soundtrack well and truly out of synch with the action.
However - there are NO, repeat, NO - such problems with the English language (dubbed) soundtrack !
So - you have the choice of either suffering the sound problems (but getting the original language and thus a better psychological ambience) or suffering the dubbed English (but having the sound effects in synch).
Either way, if you are a devotee of films, or just heist movies, this is a Must-Have !
The DVD would score five stars if Criterion ever get around to releasing it with the sound problems fixed...
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