Tuesday, April 05, 2005


(Dir Jules Dassin (1954) with Jean Servais (Tony), Carl Möhner (Jo) and others)

As I watched this, I thought of Tarantino, particularly as it closed to a very Tarantino-esque end. I don't know if Tarantino ever saw it, but I rather suspect he did. Dassin is responsible for another crime noir movie - the Naked City. Apparently with this one, in order to maintain the bleak mood throughout, he refused to do any shooting whenever the sun came out. It is a classic - tightly plotted, suspenseful, brilliantly cast, gritty.

Tony is just out of jail, after serving five years for a jewel heist. He plays briefly with the idea of going straight, but circumstances (including a massive loss at cards and the fact that his girl, Mado, has hooked up with another crim, Grutter) lead to him agreeing to run a fairly daring heist on a jewel shop. He assembles his team - Mario, Jo and César - and makes a plan. Watching them first plan and then execute the heist could almost work as a training film for wannabe jewel thiefs, back in the day. Tony checks out the jewellers, to see what sort of safe they have and what alarm system, as well as observing to see what kind of night time activity surrounds the shop. After a lot of trial and error, he discovers that filling the alarm with the contents of a fire extinguisher will muffle its sound.

Then there is the actual doing of the job - it takes them pretty much all night, after everything has queitened down. We get to see it over the course of a 30 minute in which everyone is committed to dead silence. Very impressed at the sartorial standards employed - three of them were suited up, Tony even had a bow tie. With only a small amount of police interference, they manage to get away with 240 million francs worth of (pretty crappy looking) jewellery.

That's when the fun starts. Following the essential rule of every crime story, there should never be a clue without it having some significance. Sure enough - we are told as soon as we meet
César that he finds women irresistable. Despite being told to stay at home while the jewels are peddled, out he go he must, with a gewgaw for whatever gal he might pick up. Of course, the one place he goes to is the night club run by Grutter - who, as soon as he sees the ring, is able to connect our friend Tony to the job. So - it becomes thief against thief, and Tony's team isn't exactly invulnerable to torture. The weakest link (and we know this, because we see right at the begining that he is a greenhorn) is Jo - he has a wee boy who can be kidnapped.

Given the inevitibility of where this movie is going, and I guess where it has come from, it is no surprise that it culminates in a showdown between Tony and Grutter, after each has eliminated every member of the other's team. Except Jo's boy, that is - there is a scene that would have otherwise been hilarious when Tony is driving the wee boy back to his mum - the kid is acting up with his toy gun, holding up Tony, passersby and basically being a real pain.

It is hard to say that this is a showdown between any sort of good and evil, given that Tony is really no better than Grutter - Mado made the wise choice when she walked away from both of them. And yet, my sympathies were with Tony, I wanted him to succeed after all the careful planning and hard work he had put in to take the jewels. Ultimately, however, no-one won.


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