Tuesday, February 14, 2006
Rififi, Or The Rough And Tumble
Tony The Stephanois, very pissed at the news about the remake of Rififi. (Image swiped, in a daring heist, from Criterion's vault)
When I learned that "they" are remaking Jules Dassin's 1955 classic "Rififi" (or, "du Rififi Chez Les Hommes", to be more precise), I felt this strong urge to start one of those online petitions, stating in no uncertain terms: "Dear Producers of Rififi 2007, if you so much as even think of re-enacting or changing that 30-minute sequence, may you be stricken by raging, painful, incurable gum diseases".
People want to protest the appearance of their prophets in cartoons? I've got a *much* better cause: I want to protest the systematic massacre of my favorite films.
"Rififi", Paris Noir if you want to call it that, is a great film by the director who gave us London noir, "Night and the City". It's both a procedural/heist movie as well as a noir film, and that's only one of its distinguishing points. Heist films appeal to the geek in us: the methodology behind the crime, its precision, is very important to the viewer. Noir, on the other hand, is usually about ambiguities - both in human character and relationships.
Now, caper films must necessarily portray the crooks in a flattering light (e.g."Ocean's 11"). How else could we forgive their crime? This also means caper films must have a happy resolution, i.e., the crooks steal the diamonds/cash and live happily ever after.
What if a caper film took a contrarian approach and led them to the more believable and tragic conclusion of their criminal career? That would be the story of "Rififi".
The question is, will the hooked-on-happy-ending audiences of today accept such an end?
See the film and you will know why Truffaut called it "the best noir film" he had seen.