New to Blu-ray: Rififi (1955)

     Format: Black & White, Color, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: French
  • Subtitles: English
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Criterion Collection
  • Release Date: January 14, 2014
  • Run Time: 118 minutes

  •         Hollywood is a hungry monster, almost like the alien mass in the classic science-fiction horror film, The Blob, constantly absorbing all that comes into its path. This often includes an assortment of foreign directors, whose success in their home country and native language can provide the chance to become a part of this beast. This tradition has been a constant since World War sent foreign film industries into a tailspin and the seclusion of Hollywood made it an ideal point of escape. It is so common for Hollywood to integrate foreign talent that it is easy to forget the significant moments in history which have sent American talent overseas in search of opportunity.


            Jules Dassin may have an extremely French sounding name, but he was an American with a distinctly Hollywood style of crime films under his belt before making his first film in France. Rififi (1955) was the result of an unfortunate set of circumstances, and one of the few instances in cinema’s history where filmmaker’s had reason to escape from rather than to Hollywood. Dassin had established himself in the hardboiled crime genre with masterpieces such as Brute Force and The Naked City until accusations of Communist activity forced him to flee Hollywood in 1951.


            Beneath the historical context lies a film which is every bit as entertaining today as it was upon initial release. The basic structure of the film’s heist sequences have been duplicated and imitated ever since, though there is still a raw energy to be found in this dialogue-free section of the film. The film’s story follows an ex-con named Tony le Stéphanois (Jean Servais), who joins three others in one last great heist to retire on. They plan on robbing a famous jewelry store in the center of town, opting for a meticulously planned silent theft rather than the expected ‘smash and grab’ method. Their theft occurs thanks to the use of grace an innovation instead, utilizing an umbrella and fire extinguisher to supersede the jewelry store’s security measures.


            The dual-format Blu-ray release also includes a DVD copy of the film. The Blu-ray disc has a new 2K digital restoration with an uncompressed monaural soundtrack, though the special features are available on both discs. These include an interview with the late director from 2000, along with a number of galleries. There are production stills and set design drawings. The package also has a booklet insert with an essay by film critic J. Hoberman.




    Entertainment Value: 7.5/10

    Quality of Filmmaking: 9/10

    Historical Significance: 10/10

    Disc Features: 7/10



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