RARA-AVIS: Recent viewings

From: Karin Montin ( kmontin@sympatico.ca)
Date: 11 Aug 2006

I've seen a few films noir in recent months.

First, Dassin's Du rififi chez les hommes (Rififi, 1955), based on Auguste Le Breton's novel of the same name. I really enjoyed it, but due to circumstances I missed the last half hour or so. I'll have to get it out again. The long silent heist scene is rightfully famous. If you want noir, this is it, filmically speaking. According to imbd, a remake with Al Pacino is in the offing. (Do we really need it?)

Next, Monicelli's Tutti i soliti ignoti (Big Deal on Madonna Street, 1958). It's got classic film noir features, but it's a comedy inspired by Rififi. It also has a lot in common with The Asphalt Jungle. Really great. A bunch of petty criminals--all well-defined characters--get together to break into the safe in a pawn shop. They plan carefully, then everything goes awry. The new subtitles are very contemporary (for example, one guy asks if it rains much in his pal's "hood"), apparently a big improvement on the ones when the movie first came out.

There's a rundown on it here, but it describes many major scenes and the ending, so you may not want to read the whole thing if you like surprises. http://www.imagesjournal.com/issue10/reviews/bigdeal/text.htm

Last, Tavernier's Coup de Torchon (Clean Slate, 1981), based on Jim Thompson's Pop. 1280, which I really must read one of these days. It's hard to go wrong with Philippe Noiret. He's perfect in the part of the one and only policeman in small pre-independence West African town that everyone pushes around and takes advantage of, until one day, he's had enough. He starts meting out justice, i.e., shooting people. It's as if a switch is flicked: softspoken, mild-mannered pushover to softspoken, mild-mannered vigilante killer. In fact, I had a little trouble buying his change. I'm going to be thinking about the ending for a while.

In the archives, Rene Ribic praised Kubrick's The Killing, based on a novel by Lionel White called Clean Slate, adapted for the screen with the help of Jim Thompson. Seems kind of circular. Was White's Clean Slate inspired by Pop. 1280?


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