November 17, 2009

'Rififi' Proves Me Wrong Once Again

This might be the 2,000th time I've been off base about a great movie.

For some reason, I was under the mistaken impression that the downbeat ending of Jule Dassin's 1955 jewel-heist thriller en francais Rififi would make for gloomy evening viewing.

Boy, was I wrong.

What a masterpiece. Just brilliant. I had last seen it many years ago and remembered the daring half-hour robbery scene that features no dialogue and only incidental sound, but that was only one part of this terrific film...though it was as extraordinary as ever. The frank dialogue, vivid characterizations and ugly realism were striking, and the wonderful music (by Georges Auric, who also did the superb score for Jean Cocteau's La Belle et la Bete, among others) and gorgeous, stark black-and-white photography (by Philippe Agostini, whose shots reminded me of Robert Krasker's stunning lenswork in The Third Man and Odd Man Out) augmented the picture. And yes, the ending was downbeat, but warranted within the context of the film; instead of having a negative effect, it had a positive all great movies do.

And that's the purpose of watching a good movie, isn't it? To be uplifted?

A bad movie makes me feel, well, bad. A good movie makes me elated.

Rififi did just that.

So next time, I think I'll ignore any inner voice that tells me to avoid a great film just because of its ending. The path that gets me there is worth the cost.

And I'm all about the road that should be taken.

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