Touchez Pas Au Grisbi
The French not only had the audacity to name moody American 1940s crime pictures, they had to go off and damn near perfect them in the 1950s. And director Jacques Becker’s 1954 Touchez Pas au Grisbi may be French crime flicks’ Platonic ideal. Gentlemanly gangster Max le Menteur (French silver-screen stud Jean Gabin, who was cursed with being more regally handsome than Marcello Mastroianni, being calmer under pressure than Robert Mitchum, and having a tougher countenance than Burt Lancaster) is an aged robbery man looking to retire from the biz, and with his one last score he plans on doing just that. All he has to do is wait for his heist’s aftermath heat to cool off. If only he wasn’t so duty bound to his longtime, if dim, pal Riton (René Dary), and if only Riton wasn’t trying to impress showgirl Josy (a 26-year-old Jeanne Moreau) . . . Shot in luminescent black and white and told in stylish economy and excoriating details, Touchez doesn’t show its crime, rather how the conflicted loyalties foil even the most cunning wiles. Jean-Pierre Melville’s Bob le Flambeur and Jules Dassin’s Rififi, both 1955, get most of the film-student and French New Wave love, but this little known caper outing comes closer to either—and many since—to touching the flawless.