domingo, 19 de octubre de 2008

Touchez pas au grisbi

Touchez pas au grisbi (2005 DVD)
Directed by Jacques Becker
France, 1954
In French with English subtitles

More French film excellence from the '50s. The prelude to a cellar torture scene and grenade-tossing finale notwithstanding, what we have here is sort of like a kinder, gentler version of an old school gangster movie. Jean Gabin and René Dary are outstanding as aging hoods Max le Menteur and Riton, two dapper criminals with a touching friendship more than 20 years in the making. Although much of the plot focuses on rival thug Angelo's attempt to make off with the loot (le grisbi) that Max and Riton had themselves only recently ripped off from Orly airport, director Becker does a masterful job of introducing ironic humor (one type of criminal to another: "You're all the same. To you, a fence is a crook.") and a non-cloying sentimentality (the scene where Max's considerable fondness for Riton is revealed in an interior monologue, one of the most unusual narrative devices I've ever seen in a gangster film) into the double-crossing mix. Lino Ventura as Angelo, Jeanne Moreau as the coke-snorting devil doll Josy, and Paul Frankeur as bespectacled club owner Fats all make mighty contributions to the success of the film as well, but the best testament to the unexpected brilliance of Becker's underworld aesthetic triumph might be the iconic scene where old friends Max and Riton wearily commiserate about a spilled secret and a bad break over a bottle from Nantes and a terrine of foie gras in a new hideout: sort of like Marcel Pagnol with machine guns. Five out of five stars but not for squares, Daddy-o! (

René Dary and Jean Gabin

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