Tuesday, January 17, 2006

A Subtle, Surprising French Gangster

by Jacques Becker

I love French cinema, but I hadn’t seen any films directed by Jacques Becker, and I wish I’d been able to watch them sooner. In Touchez Pas au Grisbi we see a gangster at the end of his career, who has done one last job and is ready to wrap things up. But things aren’t that simple for Max. I was constantly surprised by this film in the understated way that the story unfolds. It’s a different type of gangster film very strongly built around the characters. It’s cheeky and funny and didn’t work within the restrictive censorship that the American gangster films and films noir skirted around. This film constantly kept me off guard as violence was always lurking under the surface, but it was never exploitative or gratuitous. A wonderful film with great characters.

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