Tag Archives: du rififi chez les hommes

Du rififi chez les hommes (1955)

My Blu-ray set makes a valiant effort to translate the word “rififi”, but can’t quite convey all of its aspects. That’s understandable if you consider that even the film itself requires a three-minute musical number to explain what it means, including an admission that it won’t be found in any dictionary. It’s Parisian gangster slang that expresses, among other things, violent conflict resulting out of a particularly male disposition for roughness and macho posturing.

Variations of “rififi” are plentiful in the film. It’s in the air in the very first scene, where a card game briefly threatens to spill over into violence because a character fresh out of prison doesn’t have enough money to continue playing. That individual, Tony, is the main character, an over-the-hill criminal who makes a half-hearted attempt to stay on the straight and narrow, but soon embraces his old life. The catalyst setting him on the path of wanting in on one last score is an encounter with his old girlfriend, who has naturally moved on to another underworld figure. Mildly apologetic, she expresses her willingness to help Tony out, which he takes as an invitation to whip her with his belt. In his eyes – and maybe in hers, since she just stands there and takes it -, that is the just punishment for her disloyalty. Having indulged in one kind of rififi, he’s ready for the next: the brazen burglary of a jewelry store with his old crew, who had just been waiting on his participation to get rolling.
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