RIFIFI (DU RIFIFI CHEZ LES HOMMES) (Jules Dassin, 1955)
Museum of the Moving Image
35th Ave. at 36th St., Astoria
Friday, December 8, $15 (includes same-day museum admission), 7:00
Series continues through December 29
In 1997, Bruce Goldstein, the master repertory film programmer, archivist, and historian at Film Forum, founded Rialto Pictures, which focuses on exhibiting classic movies that were not in distribution in America. Now celebrating its twentieth anniversary, Rialto has revived more than 120 films, which first are shown in art houses before being released on DVD. The Museum of the Moving Image is paying tribute to the company with the terrific series “Rialto Pictures: 20 Films for 20 Years,” comprising twenty films from their ever-growing catalog. One of the best is Rififi, screening December 8 at 7:00. After being blacklisted in Hollywood, American auteur Jules Dassin (The Naked City, Brute Force) headed to France, where he was hired to adapt Du Rififi Chez Les Hommes, a crime novel by Auguste le Breton that he made significant changes to, resulting in one of the all-time-great heist films. After spending five years in prison, Tony le Stephanois (Jean Servais) gets out and hooks up again with his old protégé, Jo le Suédois (Carl Möhner), who has settled down with his wife (Janine Darcy) and child (Dominique Maurin) for what was supposed to be a life of domestic tranquility.
Joined by Mario Farrati (Robert Manuel), a fun-loving bon vivant with a very sexy girlfriend (Claude Sylvain), and cool and calm safecracker César le Milanais (Dassin, using the pseudonym Perlo Vita), the crew plans a heist of a small Mappin & Webb jewelry store on the Rue de Rivoli. Not content with a quick score, Tony lays the groundwork for a major take, but greed, lust, jealousy, and revenge get in the way in Dassin’s masterful film noir. The complex plan gets even more complicated as César falls for Viviane (Magali Noël), a singer who works at the L’Âge d’Or nightclub, which is owned by Pierre Grutter (Marcel Lupovici), who has taken up with Tony’s former squeeze, Mado (Marie Sabouret), and is trying to save his brother, Louis Grutter (Pierre Grasset), from a serious drug habit. (The club is named for Luis Buñuel’s 1930 film, which featured the same production designer as Rififi, Alexandre Trauner.) As the plot heats up, things threaten to explode in Dassin’s thrilling black-and-white film, which takes a series of unexpected twists and turns as it goes from its remarkably tense and highly influential heist scene to a wild climax. Dassin, who went on to make another of the great caper movies, 1964’s Topkapi, was named Best Director at Cannes for Rififi. “Rialto Pictures: 20 Films for 20 Years” continues through December 29 with such other fab pictures as Robert Hamer’s It Always Rains on Sunday, Alain Resnais’s Hiroshima, Mon Amour, introduced by Annette Insdorf, Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburge’s Tales of Hoffmann, and Whit Stillman’s Metropolitan, with Whitman on hand to discuss the film.