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Rififi (rewatch)

Posted by martinteller on February 2, 2014

Third time watching this, and apparently every time I’ve got a different complaint.  On the first viewing, it felt sluggish in parts.  I no longer feel that way.  The pacing isn’t the tightest in the world, but it’s fine.  The second time around I had a nagging feeling I would enjoy it more in English.  I acknowledged that as odd at the time, but I still wonder what it would be like with an American cast of the same era.  However, I certainly don’t see the French cast — or location — as a drawback.

This time, I had a fairly big problem with Tony (Jean Servais).  Noir is all about flawed characters and anti-heroes, but sometimes it goes too far, to the point where you no longer feel any sympathy for or allegiance with him.  You just want him to fail.  I don’t know why this time was particularly different for me, but I couldn’t be on Tony’s side after his senseless, misogynistic beating of Mado (Marie Sabouret).  To some degree I could rationalize it by telling myself Tony is not supposed to be a good guy.  As Jo’s wife Louise (Janine Darcey) points out, the real tough guys are the ones who survive a harsh background without turning to crime and brutality.  Tony tries to act like a tough guy, but whenever he gets violent it’s always when the other person is at a disadvantage: a naked woman, someone with his back turned, a person tied to a post.

So now, I dunno.  Maybe that’s one of the film’s strengths, that it can make me feel so conflicted about its lead character.  I just wish it had somehow been addressed more, because the way Mado’s beating is presented makes it seem like this is what Tony should be doing.  It requires further study, I think… I hate when other people confuse the actions of a character with an endorsement of those actions, so I don’t want to fall into that trap myself (a mistake I believe I made many years ago with The Searchers).  Fortunately, the movie is so compelling and sharply executed that I welcome additional viewings.  Rating: Very Good (84)

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