RiFiFi (1956)

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Released 17-Apr-2002

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Thriller Main Menu Audio & Animation
Interviews-Crew-Jules Dassin
Biographies-Crew-Jules Dassin
Theatrical Trailer-2:42
Production Notes
Gallery-Photo
Trailer-Innocence; Paris, Texas; Walkabout
DVD Credits
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1956
Running Time 117:55
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (80:47) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Jules Dassin
Studio
Distributor
Pathe-Consortium
Madman Entertainment
Starring Jean Servais
Carl Mohner
Robert Manuel
Perlo Vita
Marie Sabouret
Robert Hossein
Case Click
RPI $34.95 Music Georges Auric


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame French Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.37:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking Yes, plentiful
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    There is some disagreement on the 'Net regarding the meaning of the word "rififi". Some claim it really was a term from Parisian street slang, meaning "trouble" (in the sense of violence). Others claim it was made up by author Auguste Le Breton. One source claims both are true - that it was coined for his 1942 novel, and then adopted by the French underworld in the 1950s. No matter - let's just accept that as its meaning.

    Rififi (the French title for this film is Du rififi chez les hommes, which means, roughly "of trouble in the house of men") is a famous film for a number of reasons. I won't go into a discussion of the McCarthy-era Hollywood Blacklist - that is discussed in the extras. There's plenty to talk about in the movie alone.

    This movie contains a marvellous sequence depicting a robbery. There is no music and no dialogue for half an hour, with just the occasional incidental noise - it is brilliantly effective. This kind of robbery has been depicted many times since, but I don't recall a single effort that came close to this one. The tension is palpable - will the alarm go off? Will they be caught? When there's an extraneous noise, everyone in the audience jumps. Even if you haven't seen this film you will recognise many of the elements, because it has been emulated so many times - the umbrella, for example, appeared in Disorganised Crime. This is so much more than a heist/caper movie, though. It is a confrontation between men on the wrong side of the law. This is, perhaps, the perfect example of cinema noir.

    A stray thought: why do gangsters indulge in face-slapping? It seems somewhat effete - perhaps they are so tough they can afford to? A second stray thought: it is interesting that the word "rififi" is never used by the characters in the movie. The song Rififi (sung in the nightclub accompanied by a brilliant shadow dance) is the only appearance - the song seems to be in the film purely to explain the word, but it is quite a performance.

    The central characters are Tony le Stephanois (Jean Servais - perfect as the hard-as-nails thief), Jo the Swede (Carl Mohner), and Mario (Robert Manuel). They bring in Cesar the safecracker from Milan - this role is credited to Perlo Vita, but is really played by Jules Dassin, who took on the role when the hired actor couldn't make it.

    I really don't want to say very much about the plot, because you will enjoy it far more without knowing what is going to happen. Suffice it to say that by the time FIN appears on the screen, you will probably feel exhausted. Jules Dassin really earned the Best Director prize this film won at Cannes.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The movie is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, and is therefore not 16x9 enhanced. I believe this to have been made in the Academy ratio of 1.37:1, so I think this is fine.

    The picture is a little soft, but clear. There's good shadow detail - better than I expected. There's no low-level noise - blacks are solid.

    This is a black-and-white movie, but it displays a good range of greys.

    This film has been nicely restored. There are a few film artefacts - the scratches down the picture around 99:35 and 101:17 are probably the worst, and they are quite fine lines; there is also one instance of a reel change marking (113:49). There is the occasional jump of a missing frame or two. More noticeable are moire and aliasing - see 14:50, on the houndstooth tie, and 35:03 on the check jacket - today they avoiding filming such fabrics because they know what they will look like on video, but this film was made around the dawn of television, so I guess they have an excuse! There's also a couple of instances of a fascinating effect - a cross-colouration which yields rainbows (on a black-and-white movie, this is quite noticeable) - the strongest instance is at 93:58, and even there it is not objectionable. There are some scenes, particularly around 43:30 and 84:10, which are somewhat grainy, but they are at night. All in all, this is a fairly clean and attractive transfer.

    There are subtitles in English, in yellow. They are fairly good, but don't subtitle everything. They seem fairly well-timed and accurate, which is important, because you'll have to watch them unless you understand French.

    The disc is single-sided, RSDL, with the layer change at 80:47, in a moment of stillness in the middle of a scene - it is barely noticeable.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    There is just one soundtrack, in French. I listened to it, but mostly without understanding the dialogue (high school French was a long long time ago...). Note that this track has been marked as English - trust me, that's wrong. It may be that it has been marked as English to cater for those DVD players which automagically select the soundtrack in the user's language, but I think that's unlikely.

    Dialogue is clear, and I guess that it would easy to understand, if vous parlez francais. There are no visible audio sync problems.

    The score is strident, but perfectly suited to the film. Georges Auric has done an excellent job.

    The sound is Dolby Digital 2.0 mono at 224 kbps - no surrounds or subwoofers required.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Menu

    The menu is animated with music, featuring the song Rififi and the shadow dancing - quite attractive. It is monochrome, which is apt. It is rather nicer than the R1 menu (which is static and silent), but it is just as easy to use.

Featurette - Interview with Jules Dassin (28:39)

    This is very interesting - an interview with the director, conducted fairly recently (around 2000). He talks about a number of topics, including the Hollywood Blacklist and the making of this movie. Well worth watching - strongly recommended. It is in colour, presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1.

Bio - director Jules Dassin

    A seven page bio of Dassin.

Trailer (2:42)

    If for no other reason, you really must watch this to see how awful the dubbed version is - this trailer is badly dubbed into English.

Production Notes

    Fifteen pages of notes about the film. Please note that these are not the same as the notes on the R1 disc. These have been derived from an article written by a journalist in 2000.

Photo Montage

    This includes production stills and photos of production designs. It is meant to be free-running, but there appears to be a bug that causes it to revert to the extras menu after showing 2 photos. Fortunately, you can get around this by using the Chapter Skip Forwards button on the remote to skip from photo to photo. There are 63 photos in all.

Madman Propaganda

    Trailers for three more films to be released by Madman:

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 1 version of this disc comes from the Criterion Collection. The Criterion Collection is described as a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films - which says something about this film. (as an aside, Walkabout is also in the Criterion Collection)

    The R1 version is equivalent in video quality to the R4. It has pretty much the same extras, especially the interview, but the production notes are quite different. The R1 has the English dub (worth listening to for a giggle, but not to be taken seriously).

    If you have the R1 disc, I wouldn't bother getting this one. If you do not, then this one is a highly acceptable substitute, and rather less expensive.

Summary

    RiFiFi is an exciting classic movie, presented very well on DVD.

    The video quality is very good for a fifty-year old film.

    The audio quality is perfectly adequate.

    The extras are quite good.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Tony Rogers (bio-degrading: making a fool of oneself in a bio...)
Monday, May 06, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony VPH-G70 CRT Projector, QuadScan Elite scaler (Tripler), ScreenTechnics 110. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVC-A1SE
SpeakersFront Left, Centre, Right: Krix Euphonix; Rears: Krix KDX-M; Subwoofer: Krix Seismix 5

Other Reviews
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Comments (Add)
R1 picture quality better? - Ron
New Directors Suite Version - from Madman ent - rob_da_bank (I'm not ready for a bio Lois)