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Touchez Pas au Grisbi

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Gabin Goes Gold in Becker’s Touchez Pas au Grisbi (1954) | Blu-ray Review

Gabin Goes Gold in Becker’s Touchez Pas au Grisbi (1954) | Blu-ray Review

As part of Kino Lorber’s resurrection of Jean Gabin classics once owned by Criterion, on top of bringing Port of Shadows to Blu-ray, the label also re-releases 1954’s Touchez Pas au Grisbi (aka Don’t Touch the Loot or Honor Among Thieves), a classic which revitalized the French icon’s film career. A crime saga which inspired Melville and Claude Sautet, Gabin stars as an aged gangster struggling to see his final heist to its conclusion, which happens to be the daring robbery of 96 kilos of gold bullion from the Orly airport.

The plan couldn’t be simpler—Gabin’s Max the Liar simply has to filter the kilos through his family contact, Uncle Oscar (Paul Oettly), who needs to melt the gold down so it’s untraceable. Unfortunately, Max’s weak spot is his partner Riton (Rene Dary). The film opens shortly after the crime has transpired, the men wining and dining two nubile young women, Lola (Dora Doll) and the lynchpin of their undoing, Josy (a comely Jeanne Moreau several years before Truffaut would make her an icon of the New Wave with Jules and Jim). Josy, supposedly the girlfriend of Riton, is fooling around with another gangster, Angelo (Lino Ventura, who would appear a year later opposite Gabin in Razzia sur la chnouf). In short, Angelo kidnaps Riton and demands the gold bars as ransom, knowing Max won’t leave his best friend out to dry. The result is a tempestuous showdown with a fiery end for these rival gangsters and the loot, which does eventually become untouchable.

Gabin is in top form here, playing an archetype of the aged gangster on his last big deal before such a trope had become a rote cliché. The love interest here is his friendship with Riton, and adds an unusual angle to Touchez Pas au Grisbi, which was directed superbly by Jacques Becker (who may be equally well remembered for his final film, 1960’s Le Trou). Jeanne Moreau as the backstabbing fresh-faced moll is also an immortal highlight, but it’s Gabin and the film’s tone and look which remain timelessly chic. The film is based on a novel by Albert Simonin and Gabin would star in several adaptations of his works, including Any Number Can Win (1963) and Pasha (1968).

Disc Review:

Kino Lorber presents Touchez Pas au Grisbi in 1.37:1 as part of its Studio Classics. The film was beautifully shot by Pierre Montazel (Razzia sur la chnouf, 1955) and Kino’s release included audio commentary from film critic Nick Pinkerton and interviews with the director’s son, Jean Becker (also a notable director), Jeanne Moreau ad film critic Ginette Vincendeau.

Film Rating: ★★★★/☆☆☆☆☆
Disc Rating: ★★★/☆☆☆☆☆

Los Angeles based Nicholas Bell is IONCINEMA.com's Chief Film Critic and covers film festivals such as Sundance, Berlin, Cannes and TIFF. He is part of the critic groups on Rotten Tomatoes, The Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA), FIPRESCI, the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS) and GALECA. His top 3 for 2023: The Beast (Bonello) Poor Things (Lanthimos), Master Gardener (Schrader). He was a jury member at the 2019 Cleveland International Film Festival.

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