Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Ex-Patriot Noir

As I've said before, I love urban location shoots in old movies. A lot of Film Noirs were shot on location in LA. Although Film Noir is primarily an American art form, some Noirs were shot overseas, especially in France. Film Noir was well received by French film critics, it was the French who coined the term "Film Noir"- évidemment. Bob le Flambeur, Elevator to the Gallows and Breathless all have some Noir elements. And as for location shoots, I love the Parisian footage in these films. J'adore. One of the earlier French Film Noirs came about after an American director had ended his career in the US.

Jules Dassin's directing career was put on hold during a ridiculously dark period of American political history.  He was part of the Hollywood Blacklist and was barred from working after he shot Night and the City. A few years later, he was living in Europe and he was given the opportunity to direct Rififi.  At the time Rififi had been in development for a couple of years and Jean-Pierre Melville was going to direct it. I suppose the production team were excited at the chance to have a real American Film Noir director helm the picture.

 Rififi is gritty, dark and bleak. Dassin only shot at night and on overcast days, no sun shines in the film. There is a thread of betrayal and regret that runs through the story. Dassin was still working through his blacklisting, and the lead actor Jean Servais accepted the part for lower wages after his career had stalled due to his alcoholism.  Dassin loosely adapted a script from the novel Rififi. The story moves and leads up to an awesome 30 minute silent jewel heist. My favorite part of the film is at the end when the mortally wounded Tony (Servais) gets in the car with a little boy and they drive through Paris. The little boy happily tumbles around the car, blood drips down Tony's legs and a useless suitcase of loot bobs around the backseat. As Tony looses consciousness he looks at the sky and we can see the trees and rooftops of Paris. The feeling is frightening but dreamlike.

I found the scene on youtube! Someone recorded it off the Sundance Channel-the end scene starts at 5:43

- Melville supported the choice of Dassin as the director of Rififi. Melville later used some of the work and research he did for Rififi in his awesome movie The Red Circle (Le Cercle Rouge). The Red Circle also includes a silent jewel heist.  The earlier noir film Asphalt Jungle is another film to utilize the silent jewel heist-

No comments:

Post a Comment