Saturdays too far away

As a kid there were more Saturday matinées than even the combined efforts of Peter Sellers, Danny Kaye and John Wayne could fill. That didn’t stop me from hoarding or begging the price of a train ticket, a packet of Jaffas* and a ticket to the movies for the Saturday matinée.

Rififi posterSometimes what followed the cartoons and Johnny Weissmuller cliff-hangers was not the stuff of comedy fantasy or cowboy heroes. Sometimes it was a movie of an entirely different genre. These were movies made in shadows; not soft shadows as between seasons, but shadows of fate and doom or the black glint of a death-threatening revolver. They were full of men and women, good and bad, doomed by their needs, flaws and frailties – or those of others.

Of course I had never heard of such a word as “genre” then but, in my youthful innocence, I classified these as “dark films”. As much as these movies frightened me they gripped me too. I had yet to encounter Shakespeare or Sophocles and so film noir became my introduction to theatrical tragedy.

I mention this because I recently watched again after perhaps 20 years one of the icons of my “dark films”.

Rififi (Du Rififi Chez Les Hommes) is a séminal work; a seed, and sometimes an outright template, for following films noir and for heist and caper movies to the present day – be they films couleur regardless. Overblown latecomers such as Mission: Impossible and its type have never approached the breath-suspending sour-sweat tension and ultimate sadness of this original.

I was still young when I was promoting Stanley Kubrick’s release of Sparticus, not so long after Jules Dassin was forced out of America by the hysterical McCarthy House Un-American Activity Committee. Kubrick reportedly insisted similarly-accused Dalton Trumbo write and be recognised for the screenplay for Sparticus.

If you ever wanted to experience the rank fog of Gaulois butts and stale calvados, there is plenty here, as is a certain absolution and an exposition of a code de honoré – for some at least.


* A marble-shaped confection with a chocolate centre and an orange-flavoured candy coating beloved of Australian moviegoers.

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4 Responses to Saturdays too far away

  1. Gwen says:

    Yay, the Phoenix has arisen from the ashes. Better yet, he has broken out of the mold and is writing prose about his own human daily experiences. Well done. Keep it going Russell. You have thousands of tales that you could tell.

    What I’m curious about is how did you get from here to there?
    Or was that from there to here? From your Blog to SU pages?

    Is it snowing over there? It would be nice if you would share that. Nobody can do anything about the weather, but everybody wants to talk about it because it’s fascinating. :)

  2. Almost 2 months now. Ran out of words, Russell?

  3. Gwen says:

    How about The 39 Steps, or Les Quatre Cents Coup?
    Or any of Renais’ masterpieces? The list is a long one.

  4. Russell C says:

    I could not include any of the versions of “The Thirty-Nine (39) Steps” in the genre of film noir. It lacks all the essential element. I have written commentaries on other examples films of the style. It still works in the hands of good writers and directors, and, of course, lighting cameramen/directors of photography.

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