"Sure-Alarm. It's no pushover. It's the latest model."
"It's getting harder to make a living."
Four "professionals" band together for a job. Their profession is burglary and, as mentioned, it is not an easy living. There is underlying desperation among these men that led them to this job at this time.
Jean Servais, Robert Manuel, Jules Dassin, Carl Mohner as
Tony le Stephanois, Mario Ferrati, Cesar le Milanais, Jo le Suedois
Tony (Jean Servais) has just been released from prison after serving a stretch on his last job. He took the fall for his young friend Jo (Carl Mohner). Jo has a wife Louise played by Janine Darcey and kid whom they named Tonio (Dominique Maurin) after Tony. They comprise a tight family group, sharing laughs, playing with the kid, sticking up for each other.
Jo brings Tony in a job that is planned with Mario (Robert Manual), a minor mastermind with an understanding girlfriend named Ida (Claude Sylvain). Mario's plan is a smash and grab of a jewellery store. Nonetheless, both men acquiesce to Tony's idea to turn it into a bigger job; to enter the store at night and make that one last big haul that crooks dream about. A safecracker is required and Mario knows just the fellow. "Ever heard of Cesar the Milanese? They say there's not a safe that resist Cesar, and not a woman that Cesar can resist."
Once Cesar (Jules Dassin) is on board, the personnel is in place and the thorough preparation is undertaken. Timing is paramount as to police patrols and the routine of neighbouring shops. The alarm system is particularly troublesome as to its disarming.
Marie Sabouret, Jean Servais
The nightclub L'Age d'Or and its denizens are integral to the telling of the story of Rififi. Mado (Marie Sabouret), Tony's former lover has moved on to the owner of the club, gangster Pierre Grutter (Marcel Lupovici). Tony and Mado's relationship is not over, and it is complicated.
It is at the club that Cesar meets one of those women he can't resist. Singer Viviane (Magali Noel) entertains club patrons with Le Rififi describing the rough and tumble existence of the underworld.
Carl Mohner, Robert Manuel, Jean Servais, Jules Dassin
The job is carried off in an impressive silent 30-minute sequence. Silence is paramount to success as to avoid setting off alarms, mechanical or human. No word must be spoken, no misstep is allowed. It takes hours to gain the necessary access and the four must act as one to achieve their goal. The tension is beautifully built when the pesky police note something out of kilter in the street. The professional crook must be prepared for anything.
The big score is theirs and the London fence on board, but the victory celebration is short-lived. Cesar's fascination with Viviane and Tony's past with Mado bring the Grutter brothers into the gang's orbit in an aftermath of shocking violence and retribution.
Rififi is set in a world of grime; of blacks and whites and greys. Director Dassin and cinematographer Philippe Agostini take us through the nighttime hours and the rain-slicked streets backed by a haunting Georges Auric score.
Signed by MGM in the early 1940s, Connecticut-born Jules Dassin directed some polished entertainments such as The Canterville Ghost and A Letter for Evie. He moved into the dark world of noir with Two Smart People, Brute Force, The Naked City, Thieves' Highway, and Night and the City. Night and the City was filmed in London for Twentieth Century Fox in 1950 and soon Europe would become Dassin's home base after being blacklisted by HUAC.
Jules Dassin as Cesar
Rififi was adapted from a crime novel by Auguste Le Breton adapted by Jules Dassin and Rene Wheeler. Contract difficulties with the actor originally hired to play Cesar landed the role in the lap of our director.
Rififi would win for Jules Dassin the Best Director Award at Cannes and a Palm d'Or nomination, which went to the film Marty. The French Syndicate of Film Critics named it the best film of the year. The National Board of Review, USA named it the top foreign film, and the New York Film Critics Circle Award gave a special award to director Jules Dassin.
Tuesday, September 8th the TCM daytime lineup is devoted to heist pictures: Armored Car Robbery, The Asphalt Jungle, High Sierra, Rififi, The League of Gentlemen, Ocean's 11, and Jack of Diamonds.
Warning: Do not look upon these films as instructional.
Note: Rififi is not being shown on TCM Canada. Look for Convicts 4.