Author Topic: Touchez pas au grisbi (1954)  (Read 1273 times)

Offline Antares

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Touchez pas au grisbi (1954)
« on: November 12, 2010, 05:19:42 AM »
Touchez pas au grisbi





Year: 1954
Film Studio: Les Films Corona, StudioCanal Image, Antares Films
Genre: Suspense/Thriller, Drama
Length: 96 Min.

Director
Jacques Becker (1906)

Writing
Albert Simonin (1905)...Novel
Jacques Becker (1906)...Adaptation
Albert Simonin (1905)...Adaptation
Maurice Griffe...Adaptation
Albert Simonin (1905)...Dialogue

Producer
Robert Dorfmann (1912)

Cinematographer
Pierre Montazel (1911)

Music
Jean Wiener (1896)...Composer

Stars
Jean Gabin (1904) as Max
René Dary (1905) as Henri "Riton" Ducros
Lino Ventura (1919) as Angelo Fraiser
Jeanne Moreau (1928) as Josy
Paul Frankeur (1905) as Pierrot
Dora Doll (1922) as Lola
Vittorio Sanipoli (1915) as Ramon
Marilyn Buferd (1925) as Betty

Review
       By 1954, the gangster film in Hollywood was as dead as a doornail. It had prospered in the decade prior to World War II, but post-war, had evolved into a more stylized form of crime drama coined by the French, Film Noir. In Noir, the gangster is not undone by the astute and relentless crime solving techniques of the police, but by his own weakness of character. The underworld of organized crime is a murky universe with a diverse array of flawed individuals, who must fight constantly to retain their status amongst their brotherhood of brigands. Just as in real life, with time, comes wisdom and respect. A successful criminal who has survived into their fifties, is revered by his friends and envied by his enemies. But always, there are young and ambitious newcomers who are impatient with the status quo, and who will upset the apple cart by using force to unseat what they perceive as an easy, aging target.

       In Touchez pas au grisbi (Hands Off the Loot), Jean Gabin plays Max, a longtime mover and shaker in the Parisian underworld. Max is respected throughout the underworld as a man of principle. A brethren soul who honors his partners and friends with undying loyalty. When tensions arise between rivaling factions, Max is always brought in to mediate the problem and keep the streets free from bloodshed. But Max has tired of the burdens that are associated with being a wizened aristocrat of the underworld, and as we learn in the beginning of the film, eight gold bars have been stolen from a shipment at Orly airport. Of course, Max is behind the theft, and he sees this as his final job, his last ‘big score’. All he needs to do is fence the gold bars into cash and then he retires to a more docile life, most likely on the Côte d'Azur. But as I mentioned earlier, Max is completely loyal to his associates, and this code of honor will set forth in motion, a series of events that will pull Max back into the dangerous world he is trying to escape from.

       Riton (René Dary) has been Max’s partner for years. They have been two of the most successful operators in the Parisian crime world for the last twenty years. But Riton has a weakness, the same weakness as most Frenchmen; Women. Unlike Max, who is gliding effortlessly towards old age, Riton feels that he no longer has the staying power of his youth. And to that end, to impress a much younger girl whom he has been dating, he lets slip his knowledge of Max’s last great score. The girl, named Josy (Jeanne Moreau, in one of her first roles) has now told that little bit of information to Angelo (Lino Ventura, also in one of his first roles), an up and coming gangster who is always looking to increase his wallet and his prestige amongst the criminal community. And by relinquishing Max’s greatest heist and getting away with it, he will become known to others as a man to be feared. Angelo kidnaps Riton in hopes of getting the gold bars as a ransom payment from Max, knowing that Max’s loyalty to his partner is unshakeable. But Max is not going to take this expropriation of not only his money, but his rank, lying down.

       He agrees to make the ransom payment for his friend, but with a little twist added to the proceedings. Through his guile and audacity, he has learned that the world of crime is the ultimate example of survival of the fittest. To make it as far as he has in the underworld, Max has had to stay one step ahead of his adversaries. Max knows that once Angelo receives the money and returns Riton, the young usurper will have to kill the both of them, out of fear of reprisal for his actions. When the transfer is to be made on a dark and deserted country road, in the waning hours of the evening, Angelo will have another car waiting in the shadows with assassins ready to eliminate Max after Angelo leaves. When Max arrives at the transfer spot, everything goes as according to plan. Max hands the gold bars to Angelo, who in return, sets Riton free. Both groups start to make their way back to their respective vehicles, with Angelo reaching his car and departing first. As Angelo passes his accomplices down the road, he signals that the transfer has been made, and the assassins start off down the road, back towards Max’s group. Knowing what’s about to transpire, Max and his cohorts crouch down at the side of the road, just behind their car. Soon, the assassins appear and machine gun Max’s car. As they get out, to make sure their job is complete by tossing a surplus German hand grenade into the car, Max and his men open fire. The grenade destroys Max’s car, but Max and Riton survive. The assassins are killed, and now, Max gives chase with the assassin’s car. Angelo, whom Max knows is waiting somewhere down the road, awaits the news of Max’s demise. It is here, in my synopsis of the story, where I will stop. To go any further would spoil the great ending to a remarkable film. But as all crime films go, in the end, the mantra of ‘crime doesn’t pay’ still holds true. Max will have to wait if he wants to retire, maybe, just maybe, after the next ‘big score’.

       Jean Gabin and Lino Ventura give outstanding performances as the protagonist and antagonist respectively. For Gabin, it would be his greatest acting performance since his heyday in the thirties. The suave nuances he brings to his character reminded me of Cary Grant in To Catch a Thief or North by Northwest. There is something to be said about a respected actor, realizing his time as a youthful heartthrob, will not last forever. Gabin understands this, and his sophistication and paternal charm add weight to what is for me, his greatest achievement in film. On the other side of the coin, Ventura exudes a coolness that portends the talent that would propel him to the lofty position once occupied by Gabin in his younger days. For the next twenty years, Ventura would be one of France’s most successful leading men, attaining a stature comparable to Spencer Tracy in Hollywood. With each new film I see, with him as the lead, my fondness and admiration increase twofold. And finally, one of the hallmarks of great Noir is the sultry and seductive nature of the women who populate the seedy underworld inhabited by the protagonists. Well, you can’t get any more seductive or sultry as the women who appear in this film. Jeanne Moreau, Delia Scala and Lucilla Solivani are three femme fatales that could easily be used to test the blood pressure of any male still breathing. Just to view their seductive beauty is worth the effort of seeking out these great French ‘Noir’ films.


Review Criterion
5 Stars - The pinnacle of film perfection and excellence.
4 ½ Stars - Not quite an immortal film, yet a masterpiece in its own right.
4 Stars - Historically important film, considered a classic.
3 ½ Stars - An entertaining film that’s fun or engaging to watch.
3 Stars – A good film that’s worth a Netflix venture.
2 ½ Stars - Borderline viewable.
2 Stars – A bad film that may have a moment of interest.
1 ½ Stars – Insipid, trite and sophomoric, and that's its good points.
1 Star – A film so vacuous, it will suck 2 hours from the remainder of your life.
½ Star - A gangrenous and festering pustule in the chronicles of celluloid.
« Last Edit: December 09, 2010, 01:04:06 AM by Antares »