Written by: Michael Den Boer on May 6th, 2011
Theatrical Release Date: France, 1955
Director: Jules Dassin
Writers: Jules Dassin, René Wheeler, Auguste Le Breton
Cast: Jean Servais, Carl Möhner, Robert Manuel, Janine Darcey, Pierre Grasset, Robert Hossein, Marcel Lupovici, Dominique Maurin, Magali Noël, Marie Sabouret, Claude Sylvain, Jules Dassin
BluRay released: May 9th, 2011
Approximate running times: 118 Minutes (BluRay), 113 Minutes (DVD)
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 Full Frame / 1080 Progressive (BluRay), 1.33:1 Full Frame (DVD)
Rating: 12 (UK)
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono French
BluRay Release: Arrow Academy
Region Coding: Coding: Region B (BluRay), Region 2 PAL (DVD)
Retail Price: £14.99
Rififi was co-written and directed by Jules Dassin, an American filmmaker that was blacklisted by the Hollywood establishment in the early 1950’s. In 1953 he would relocate to France and in 1955 he would direct Rififi, a film that is widely considering his crowning achievement as a filmmaker.
Over the years there have been countless films centered around a heist and yet none have had the lasting impact that Rififi does. Even though premise wise things are fairly routine. Everything else about this production is far from atypical. With a lengthy heist sequence that is devoid of any dialog or score, as its centerpiece.
The plot is broken down into three acts, the opening act revolves the preparation of the heist, the middle act is anchored by the aforementioned heist and the final act the aftermath following the heist. Narrative wise everything is laid out is such a meticulous way that when the film’s climax arrives, it is all the more potent. Another area in which this film excels is how it establishes who everyone is and what their motivations are. There is no grey area here, making it all the more easy to empathize for what are ultimately flawed human beings. Especially the film’s protagonist Tony le Stéphanois.
Known primarily for his work with in the film noir genre directing films like, Brute Force, The Naked City and Night and City. Visual with Rififi, Jules Dassin uses many of the same aesthetics that he had employed with those aforementioned films. Including the use of many real life locations to add to the realism of the story at hand.
The most surprising aspect of this production are the performances are range from good to exceptional. With the film’s most memorable performance coming from Jean Servais (The Devil’s Nightmare) in the role of Tony le Stéphanois. He gives an utterly convincing performance as career criminal that has come to the end of this rope. Eight years after appearing in Rififi, he would go onto to star in an unrelated ‘Rififi’ film titled ‘Rififí en la ciudad’. Other performances of note include Marcel Lupovici in the role of the drug addict brother of the man who stole Tony’s girlfriend and Jules Dassin (in his first acting role) as a safe cracking Italian playboy.
Rififi comes on a 50 GB daul layer BluRay. The film is given a 1080 progressive transfer that retains its original aspect ratio. The source used is in great shape and grain looks natural. Details look sharp, black and contrast levels look consistently strong throughout. There are no problems with compression or DNR.
This release comes with one audio option, a Dolby Digital mono mix in French and removable English subtitles have been included with this release. Dialog comes through clearly, everything sound balanced and robust when it needs too. There are no problems with background noise or distortion.
Extras for this release include a trailer for the film (2 minutes 51 seconds – 1.33:1 full frame, in French), a informative segment about this film and its director with French cinema scholar Ginette Vincendeau (24 minutes 8 seconds – anamorphic widescreen), a interview with director Jules Dassin (29 minutes 54 seconds – 4:3 full frame, in English) and a Q & A with Jules Dassin (37 minutes 10 seconds – 4:3 full frame, in English). There is a wealth of information about this film and Jules Dassin that can be gleaned from the extra content included with this release. Some topics include the origins of Rififi, Jules Dassin also discusses being blacklisted in America and various other films that he worked on. Also included with this release is a collectable booklet with a brand new writing on the film by writer and filmmaker David Cairns, author Alastair Phillips (Rififi: French Film Guide), Francois Truffaut and John Trevelyan. It should be noted that the DVD does not all of the content on the Blu-Ray disc. With the interview and Q & A not being included with the DVD disc that was included as part of this combo release. Overall Rififi gets a solid release from Arrow Academy.