The Parisian Job, Jules Dassin’s Rififi

The Parisian Job, Jules Dassin’s Rififi

Static Mass Rating: 4/5

Release date: May 9th, 2011
Certificate (UK): 12

Running time: 122 minutes

Original language: French with English subtitles

Year of production: 1955

Director: Jules Dassin

Writers: Auguste le Breton (novel), Jules Dassin, René Wheeler (screenplay)

Cast: Jean Servais, Carl Möhner, Robert Manuel, Jules Dassin, Magali Noël

This week sees the updated release of heist movie par excellence Rififi (1956), described by renowned film critic François Truffaut as “the greatest film noir I have ever seen”.

“Un”-American director Jules Dassin, driven into exile by McCarthy’s blacklist of alleged communist sympathisers, went on to resuscitate his career in France with a film which would see so many of the archetypes it minted still in cinematic currency today.

When aging jewel-thief Tony le Stephanois is released from a five-year stint in the slammer (early “on good behaviour” of course) his partner in crime proposes one last job. But crumple-suited Tony is going straight, except for the booze and gambling, or thinks he is until he finds his old beau is now rival mobster Pierre Grutter’s courtisane.


After getting his house in order- to use the gangster euphemism for ordering her to disrobe and lashing her repeatedly with a belt- he calls up his big blonde apprentice Jo le Suédois to tell him the good news: nihilistic abandon has inspired him to take on new employment, or in his words: “A man’s gotta live.” Indeed.

But Jo’s scheme- to shoplift a few measly diamonds from the window display- is not nearly big enough for Tony’s renewed appetite for risk and reward. The old man wants the 240 million franc contents of a rather well defended safe. Mon Dieu.


With the help of two Italians, the breezy Mario Ferrati and raffish César le Milanais (Surly and Muscles of course completing the quartet), they set about planning to elude various security measures, getting acquainted with one another and getting nervous.

The celebrated robbery scene lasts half-an-hour, sans dialogue, sans music, sans pretty much everything.


Everything, that is, except tip-toes (sheathed by what remarkably appear to Converse sneakers), drilling, abseiling, anxious perspiration and the ingenious use of an umbrella. It is unadulterated heist. The New York Times called it “a master-class in breaking and entering”; and among nerve-wracking, tantalising and exhilarating I would emphatically count thorough as a pertinent adjective. One imagines studious robbers taking notes and security firms cursing the commie bastard who just prematurely retired their merchandise.


  • Introduction with French Professor of Film (24:08)
  • Interview with Jules Dassin (29:54)
  • Q&A with Jules Dassin (37:10)
  • Trailer (2:51)

Whether the heist goes smoothly I won’t say, but the film doesn’t end there; and when the nefarious Grutter and his cronies get involved it is not their primary motive to make Tony & co. look saintly by comparison.

From the commotion of Parisian boulevards to gathering beads of sweat on furrowed foreheads, the cinematography looks crisp, bright and detailed on Blu-Ray. If you’re watching on a vast screen then you’ll probably notice some pixilation, and ghostly distortions of movement in the background occur once or twice. But it hardly diminishes a polished re-release of this peerless education in crime cinema.

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