Film poster with original French title
Directed by Jules Dassin Produced by Henri Bérard
Written by Auguste le Breton
Starring Jean Servais
Music by Georges Auric Cinematography Philippe Agostini Editing by Roger Dwyre Distributed by Pathé Release date(s) France:
13 April 1955
5 June 1956
Running time 115 minutes Country France Language French Budget $200,000
Rififi (French: Du rififi chez les hommes)† is a 1955 French crime film adaptation of Auguste le Breton's novel of the same name. Directed by American filmmaker Jules Dassin, the film stars Jean Servais as the aging gangster Tony le Stéphanois, Carl Möhner as Jo le Suédois, Robert Manuel as Mario Farrati, and Jules Dassin as César le Milanais. The plot revolves around a burglary at a jewelry shop in the Rue de Rivoli. Tony, Jo, Mario, and César band together to commit the almost impossible theft. The centerpiece of the film is an intricate half hour heist scene depicting the crime in detail, shot in near silence, without dialogue or music. The fictional burglary has been mimicked by criminals in actual crimes around the world.
After he was blacklisted from Hollywood, Dassin found work in France where he was asked to direct Rififi. Despite his distaste for parts of the original novel, Dassin agreed to direct the film. He shot Rififi while working with a low budget, without a star cast, and with the production staff working for low wages.
Upon the initial release of the film, it received positive reactions from audiences and critics in France, the United States, and the United Kingdom. The film earned Dassin the award for Best Director at the 1955 Cannes Film Festival. Rififi was nominated by the National Board of Review for Best Foreign Film. Rififi was re-released theatrically in 2000 and is still highly acclaimed by modern film critics as one of the greatest works in French film noir.
Tony "le Stéphanois" has done five years for a jewel heist, and is now out on the street and down on his luck. His friend Jo approaches Tony about another jewel heist in which they and Mario would stealthily cut the glass on a Parisian jeweler's front window and grab some gems. Tony opts not to participate. Tony learns that his old girlfriend, Mado, has now aligned herself with Pierre Grutter. Finding Mado at Grutter's nightclub, he invites her back to his rundown flat. Mado has been well-kept, and Tony savagely beats her for being so deeply involved with Grutter. Tony changes his mind about the heist; he now accepts on the condition that they hit the jeweler's safe, not the window. Mario, an Italian, suggests they employ the services of his compatriot César, a safecracker. The four team up and plan a way to work around the ingenious alarm system guarding the jewelry shop.
Casing the store, the group decides to drill through the ceiling from an upstairs flat which will be vacant on a Sunday night extending into Monday morning before the jeweler returns. The suspenseful break-in completed, the criminals seem to have triumphed. Without the others' knowledge, César has pocketed a diamond ring as a gift for his mistress Viviane, a chanteuse at Grutter's club. The four men arrange to fence the loot with a London contact. Meanwhile, Grutter has seen Mado and her injuries; Mado breaks off their relationship. From this, Grutter infers that Tony is at the root of Mado's decision; he then gives drugs to his heroin-addicted brother and tells him to murder Tony. Grutter sees the diamond César gave to Viviane and realizes that César and Tony were responsible for the jewel theft. Grutter forces César to confess. Seeking revenge and money, Grutter's gang brutally murders Mario and his wife Ida. Tony retrieves Mario's share of the jewels and pays for a splendid funeral for him. Tony goes looking for Grutter and finds the captive César, who confesses to ratting him out to Grutter. With regret, Tony kills César.
Meanwhile, Grutter's thugs have kidnapped Jo's five-year-old son Tonio, demanding that Tony give over the loot or young Tonio will be killed. The London fence arrives with the cash, which now seems pointless to Jo, who along with his wife, is tormented with worry for their son. Seeking the boy, Tony tracks him down at Grutter's country house and kills Grutter's brothers Rémi and Louis to save him. On the way back to Paris, Tony is told that Jo has cracked under the pressure and has taken the money to the house for Grutter. Grutter kills Jo, and then is killed by Tony, who is mortally wounded. Bleeding profusely, Tony drives maniacally back to Paris and delivers Tonio home safely. Tony dies in his car as police and bystanders close in on him and his remaining loot.
- Jean Servais as Tony le Stéphanois: A gangster who recently returned from serving five years in prison. Tony is the godfather to the son of Jo le Suédois and is the eldest of the gangsters who are attempting to steal the diamonds.
- Carl Möhner as Jo le Suédois: A young Swedish gangster who is under Tony's tutelage. Jo invites Tony for one last diamond heist.
- Robert Manuel as Mario Ferrati: A happy-go-lucky Italian gangster who accompanies Tony, Jo and César in the diamond heist.
- Jules Dassin as César le Milanais: César is a safecracker hired by Tony to help undertake the diamond heist. Dassin played this role under the pseudonym of Perlo Vita.
- Marcel Lupovici as Pierre Grutter: The leader of the Grutter gang. Pierre is the first to figure out Tony's responsibility for the diamond heist.
- Pierre Grasset as Louis Grutter: A member of the Grutter gang who is also the owner of the night-club L'Âge d'Or.
- Marie Sabouret as Mado: The former lover of Tony le Stéphanois.
- Dominique Maurin as Tonio le Suédois: The young son of Jo le Suédois. Towards the end of the film, Tonio is kidnapped by the Grutter gang and is rescued by Tony le Stéphanois.
The film Rififi was originally to be directed by Jean-Pierre Melville, a later luminary of the heist film genre. Melville gave his blessing to American director Jules Dassin when the latter asked for his permission to take the helm. It was Dassin's first film in five years; he had been blacklisted by the House Committee on Un-American Activities after fellow director Edward Dmytryk named him a communist in April 1951. Subsequently, Dassin attempted to rebuild his career in Europe. Several such film projects were stopped through long-distance efforts by the US government. Dassin attempted a film L'Ennemi public numero un, which was halted after stars Fernandel and Zsa Zsa Gabor withdrew under American pressure. An attempt to film an adaptation of Giovanni Verga's Mastro don Gesualdo in Rome was halted by the US Embassy. Dassin received an offer from an agent in Paris, France where he met producer Henri Bérard who had acquired the rights to Auguste le Breton's popular crime novel Du Rififi chez les hommes. Bérard chose Dassin due to the major success in France of Dassin's previous film: The Naked City.
Using his native English, Dassin wrote the screenplay to Rififi in six days with the help of screenwriter René Wheeler, who subsequently took the material and translated it to French. Dassin hated the novel; he was repelled by the story's racist theme in which the rival gangsters were dark Arabs and North Africans pitted against light-skinned Europeans. As well, the book portrayed disquieting events such as necrophilia—scenes that Dassin did not know how to bring to the big screen. For the rival gang, the producer suggested making them Americans, assuming Dassin would approve. Dassin was against this idea as he didn't want to be accused of taking oblique revenge on screen. Dassin downplayed the rival gangsters' characters in his screenplay and made their ethnicity vague, with the name Grutter sounding possibly German, Polish, or Centro-European. The greatest change from the book was the heist scene which spanned ten pages of the 250-page novel. Dassin focused the screenplay around this event to get past the other events that he did not know what to do with. In the film, the scene takes a quarter of the film's running time and is accomplished without spoken words or music.
Working with a budget of $200,000, Dassin could not afford top stars for the film. To carry the lead role, Dassin selected Jean Servais, an actor whose career had slumped due to alcoholism. For Italian gangster Mario Ferrati, Dassin cast Robert Manuel after seeing him perform a comic role as a member of Comédie-Française. After a suggestion made by the wife of the film's producer, Dassin cast Carl Möhner as Jo the Swede. Dassin would use Möhner again in his next film He Who Must Die. Dassin himself played the role of the Italian safecracker César the Milanese. Dassin explained in an interview that he "had a cast a very good actor in Italy, whose name escapes me, but he never got the contract!...So I had to put on the mustache and do the part myself".
Rififi was filmed during the wintertime in Paris and used real locations rather than studio sets. Due to the low budget, the locations were scouted by Dassin himself. Dassin's fee for writing, directing, and acting was US$8,000. Dassin's production designer to whom he referred as "one of the greatest men in the history of cinema" was Alexandre Trauner. Out of friendship for Dassin, Trauner did the film for very little money. Dassin argued with his producer Henri Bérard on two points: Dassin refused to shoot the film when there was sunlight claiming that he "just wanted grey"; and that there were to be no fist fights in the film. Such fight scenes had been important to the popular success in France of the Lemmy Caution film series.
Rififi's heist scene was based on an actual burglary that took place in 1899 along Marseille's cours St-Louis. A gang broke into the first floor offices of a travel agency, cutting a hole in the floor and using an umbrella to catch the debris in order to make off with the contents of the jeweler's shop below. The scene where Tony regretfully chooses to kill César for his betrayal of the thieves' code of silence was filmed as an allusion to how Dassin and others felt after finding their contemporaries willing to name names in front of the House Un-American Activities Committee. This act was not in the original novel.
Georges Auric was hired as the composer for the film. Dassin and Auric originally could not agree about scoring the half hour caper scene. After Dassin told Auric he did not want music, Auric claimed he would "protect [him]. I'm going to write the music for the scene anyways, because you need to be protected". After filming was finished, Dassin showed the film to Auric once with music and once without. Afterward, Auric agreed to remove the music.
In 2001, Dassin admitted that he somewhat regretted the Rififi theme song, utilized only to explain the film's title which is never mentioned by any other film characters. The title is almost un-translatable into English; the closest attempts have been "rough and tumble" and "pitched battle." Dassin said he thought the author had created the word himself to refer to Moroccan Berbers. The song was written in two days by lyricist Jacques Larue and composer Philippe-Gérard after Dassin turned down a proposal by Louiguy. Magali Noël was cast as Viviane, who sings the film's theme song. Noël would later act for Italian director Federico Fellini, appearing in three of his films.
Rififi debuted in France on April 13, 1955. The film was banned in some countries due to its heist scene, referred to by the Los Angeles Times reviewer as a "master class in breaking and entering as well as filmmaking". The Mexican interior ministry banned the film because of a series of burglaries mimicking its heist scene. Rififi was banned in Finland in the late 1950s. In answer to critics who saw the film as an educational process that taught people how to commit burglary, Dassin claimed the film showed how difficult it was to actually carry out a crime.
Rififi was a popular success in France which led to several other Rififi films based on le Breton's stories. These films include Du rififi chez les femmes (1959), Du rififi à Tokyo (1961), and Du rififi à Paname (1965). On its United Kingdom release, Rififi was paired with the British science fiction film The Quatermass Xperiment as a double bill; this went on to be the most successful double-bill release in UK cinemas in all of 1955. The film was offered distribution in the United States on the condition that Dassin renounce his past, declaring that he was duped into subversive associations. Otherwise, his name would be removed from the film as the writer and director. Dassin refused and the film was released by United Artists who set up a dummy corporation as the distributing company. The film was distributed successfully in America with Dassin listed in the credits; in this way he was the first to break the Hollywood blacklist. Rififi was released in the United States first with subtitles and then later with an English dub under the title Rififi...Means Trouble!. The film caused controversy on its release from The Roman Catholic Legion of Decency. The film endured three brief cuts in it and opened with a title card quoting the Book of Proverbs stating "When the wicked are multiplied, crime shall be multiplied: but the just shall see their downfall". After this change, the film passed with a B rating. In 2005, Variety announced that Stone Village Pictures acquired the remake rights to Rififi; the producers intending to place the film in a modern setting with Al Pacino taking the lead role.
In North America, Rififi has been released on both VHS and DVD. The VHS print has been reviewed negatively by critics. Roger Ebert referred to it as "shabby" while Bill Hunt and Todd Doogan, the authors of The Digital Bits Insider's Guide to DVD, referred to the VHS version as "horrible" and with "crappy subtitles". The Criterion Collection released a DVD version of the film on April 24, 2001. In the United Kingdom, Rififi was released on DVD by Arrow Films on April 21, 2003, and on Region B Blu-Ray by the same publisher on May 9, 2011.
Upon its original release, film critic and future director François Truffaut praised the film, stating that "Out of the worst crime novels I ever read, Jules Dassin has made the best crime film I've ever seen" and "Everything in Le Rififi is intelligent: screenplay, dialogue, sets, music, choice of actors. Jean Servais, Robert Manuel, and Jules Dassin are perfect." French critic André Bazin said that Rififi brought the genre a "sincerity and humanity that break with the conventions of a crime film, and manage to touch our hearts". In the February 1956 issue of the French film magazine Cahiers du cinéma, the film was listed as number thirteen in the top twenty films of 1955. The film was well received by British critics who noted the film's violence on its initial release. The Daily Mirror referred to the film as "brilliant and brutal" while the Daily Herald made note that Rififi would "make American attempts at screen brutality look like a tea party in cathedral city". The American release of the film also received acclaim. Bosley Crowther of The New York Times referred to the film as "perhaps the keenest crime film that ever came from France, including "Pepe le Moko" and some of the best of Louis Jouvet and Jean Gabin." The National Board of Review nominated the film as the Best Foreign Film in 1956.
Rififi was re-released for a limited run within America on July 21, 2000 in a new 35 mm print containing new, more explicit subtitles that were enhanced in collaboration with Dassin. The film was received very well by American critics on its re-release. The film ranking website Rotten Tomatoes reported that 92% of critics had given the film positive reviews, based upon a sample of 39. At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the film has received an average score of 97, based on 13 reviews. Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times wrote the film was the "benchmark all succeeding heist films have been measured against... It's a film whose influence is hard to overstate, one that proves for not the last time that it's easier to break into a safe than fathom the mysteries of the human heart." Lucia Bozzola of the online database Allmovie gave the film the highest possible rating of five stars, calling it "The pinnacle of heist movies" and "not only one of the best French noirs, but one of the top movies in the genre." In 2002, critic Roger Ebert added the film to his list of "Great Movies" stating "echoes of [Rififi] can be found from Kubrick's "The Killing" to Tarantino's "Reservoir Dogs." They both owe something to John Huston's "The Asphalt Jungle" (1950), which has the general idea but not the attention to detail." Among negative reviews of the film, Dave Kehr of the Chicago Reader felt that "the film turns moralistic and sour in the last half, when the thieves fall out." Rififi placed at number 90 on Empire's list of The 100 Best Films Of World Cinema. Critic and director Jean-Luc Godard regarded the film negatively in comparison to other French crime films of the era, noting in 1986 that "today it can't hold a candle to Touchez pas au grisbi which paved the way for it, let alone Bob le flambeur which it paved the way for."
- ^ † The title Du Rififi chez les hommes does not directly translate into English. A rough translation would be Rumble among the men.
- ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y (Supplemental slideshow on DVD) Rififi (Liner notes). New York, New York: The Criterion Collection. 1955 [DVD 2001]. ISBN 0-78002-396-X.
- ^ a b c d e f g h Ebert, Roger (October 6, 2000). "Rififi (1954)". Chicago Sun-Times. http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20020901/REVIEWS08/209010301/1023.
- ^ a b www.newspaperarchive.com Lethbridge Herald, The Saturday, August 18, 1956
- ^ a b c Powrie 2006, p. 71.
- ^ "Festival de Cannes: Rififi". festival-cannes.com. http://www.festival-cannes.com/en/archives/ficheFilm/id/3723/year/1955.html. Retrieved 2009-01-31.
- ^ a b Truffaut 1994, p. 209.
- ^ a b c Powrie 2006, p. 76.
- ^ a b Berg, Sandra (November 2006). "When Noir Turned Black". Written By. http://www.wga.org/writtenby/writtenbysub.aspx?id=2247. Retrieved 24 December 2008.
- ^ a b c d e (Jules Dassin Interview) Rififi (Liner notes). New York, New York: The Criterion Collection. 1955 [DVD 2001]. ISBN 0-78002-396-X.
- ^ a b c d Sragow, Michael (July 16, 2000). "FILM; A Noir Classic Makes It Back From the Blacklist". The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2000/07/16/movies/film-a-noir-classic-makes-it-back-from-the-blacklist.html?sec=&spon=&pagewanted=all.
- ^ a b c Powrie 2006, p. 77.
- ^ Powrie 2006, p. 73.
- ^ a b c Turan, Kenneth (October 6, 2000). "Movie Review; 'Rififi' Remains the Perfect Heist (Movie); Jules Dassin's 1955 thriller has lost none of its power to captivate and entertain an audience.". Los Angeles Times. http://pqasb.pqarchiver.com/latimes/access/62165228.html?dids=62165228:62165228&FMT=ABS&FMTS=ABS:FT&date=Oct+06%2C+2000&author=KENNETH+TURAN&pub=Los+Angeles+Times&desc=Movie+Review%3B+'Rififi'+Remains+the+Perfect+Heist+(Movie)%3B+Jules+Dassin's+1955+thriller+has+lost+none+of+its+power+to+captivate+and+entertain+an+audience.&pqatl=google.
- ^ Luther, Claudia (April 1, 2008). "Blacklisted Director Jules Dassin Dies at 96". Los Angeles Times. http://articles.latimes.com/2008/apr/01/local/me-dassin1.
- ^ Törnudd 1986, p. 152.
- ^ Hardy 1997, p. 118.
- ^ Hardy 1997, p. 119.
- ^ "Profitable Films: British Successes". The Times. 1955-12-15. p. 5.
- ^ Levy 2003, p. 343.
- ^ a b Levy 2003, p. 344.
- ^ a b Foerstel 1998, p. 165.
- ^ Fleming, Michael (August 18, 2005). "Pacino in hest [sic] mode with 'Rififi'". Variety. http://www.variety.com/article/VR1117927741.html?categoryid=13&cs=1. Retrieved 8 January 2009.
- ^ Hunt and Doogan 2004, p. 330.
- ^ a b c "Rififi (re-release) (2001): Reviews." metacritic.com. Retrieved: November 15, 2008.
- ^ Hunt and Doogan 2004, p. 329.
- ^ Sven Astanov. "Rififi Blu-ray Review". Blu-ray.com. http://www.blu-ray.com/movies/Rififi-Blu-ray/21178/#Review. Retrieved July 17, 2011.
- ^ "Arrow Films - RIFIFI". Arrow Films. http://www.arrowfilms.co.uk/index.php?c=y&s=78db68b9457293e8e9d86b09f0d67c46&art_id=3&tle_id=43&v=. Retrieved 15 November 2008.
- ^ "Rififi [1954"]. Amazon.com. http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00008MJ0G. Retrieved 15 November 2008.
- ^ Hillier 1985, p. 285.
- ^ Crowther, Bosley (June 6, 1956). "Rififi (1955)". The New York Times. http://movies.nytimes.com/movie/review?res=9806EFDF133EE63ABC4E53DFB066838D649EDE. Retrieved 7 January 2009.
- ^ "Rififi: Awards". Allmovie. http://www.allmovie.com/work/rififi-41398/awards. Retrieved 17 April 2010.
- ^ a b Bozzola, Lucia. "Rififi: Review". Allmovie. http://www.allmovie.com/work/rififi-41398/review. Retrieved 17 April 2010.
- ^ [du-rififi-chez-les-hommes-rififi/ "Rififi - Rotten Tomatoes"]. Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. du-rififi-chez-les-hommes-rififi/. Retrieved July 29, 2010.
- ^ Kehr, David. "Rififi Capsule". Chicago Reader. http://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/rififi/Film?oid=1055475. Retrieved 17 April 2010.
- ^ "The 100 Best Films Of World Cinema". Empire. http://www.empireonline.com/features/100-greatest-world-cinema-films/default.asp?film=90. Retrieved July 22, 2010.
- ^ Godard 1986, p. 127.
- Powrie, Phil (2006). The Cinema of France. Wallflower Press. ISBN 1904764460. http://books.google.com/books?id=nKd2VC2Q95YC. Retrieved 13 August 2009.
- Hunt, Bill; Todd Doogan (2004). The Digital Bits Insider's Guide to DVD: Insider's Guide to DVD. McGraw-Hill Professional. ISBN 0071418520. http://books.google.com/books?id=ZPvgA1QU1BMC. Retrieved 13 August 2009.
- Hardy, Phil (1997). The BFI Companion to Crime. Continuum International Publishing Group. ISBN 0304332151. http://books.google.com/books?id=4UZRcuwtbmEC. Retrieved 13 August 2009.
- Truffaut, François; Leonard Mayhew (1994). The Films In My Life. Da Capo Press. ISBN 0306805995. http://books.google.com/books?id=aZsFHXk8BWoC. Retrieved 13 August 2009.
- Levy, Emanuel (2003). All about Oscar: The History and Politics of the Academy Awards. Continuum International Publishing Group. ISBN 0826414524. http://books.google.com/books?id=dH2Lb_YhIhAC. Retrieved 13 August 2009.
- Hillier, Jim; Nick Browne, David Wilson (1985). Cahiers Du Cinema: Volume I: The 1950s. Neo-Realism, Hollywood, New Wave.. Routledge. ISBN 0415151058. http://books.google.com/books?id=dJY_vOE943QC. Retrieved 13 August 2009.
- Törnudd, Klaus (1986). Finland and the International Norms of Human Rights. Martinus Nijhoff Publishers. ISBN 9024732573. http://books.google.com/books?id=w4qgtDF6Z2IC. Retrieved 13 August 2009.
- Foerstel, Herbert N. (1998). Banned in the Media: A Reference Guide to Censorship in the Press, Motion Pictures, Broadcasting, and the Internet. Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN 0313302456. http://books.google.com/books?id=LcZoAAAAIAAJ. Retrieved 13 August 2009.
- Godard, Jean Luc; Jean Narboni, Tom Milne (1986). Godard on Godard. Da Capo Press. ISBN 0306802597. http://books.google.com/books?id=qvzDbqWmW4IC. Retrieved 13 August 2009.
- Rififi at AllRovi
- Rififi at the Internet Movie Database
- Rififi at Metacritic
- Rififi at Rotten Tomatoes
- Rififi at the TCM Movie Database
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Rififi — Rịfifi [nach dem gleichnamigen Spielfilm von J. Dassin] das, raffiniert ausgeklügeltes, in aller Heimlichkeit durchgeführtes Verbrechen. * * * Rị|fi|fi, das; s <meist o. Art.> [nach dem gleichnamigen frz. Spielfilm (1955), der einen… … Universal-Lexikon
Rififi — Rififimn Rauferei,Prügelei;Aufstand;Handgreiflichkeitenu.ä.GehtaufdenfranzSoldatenjargonzurück:»rif=Feuer«;»prendrelerif=mitGewaltnehmen«;»fairedurif=Streitsuchen«.AusderPariserUnterweltimZweitenWeltkriegaufgestiegen.InDeutschlandsehrbekanntgeword… … Wörterbuch der deutschen Umgangssprache
Rififi — Ri|fi|fi das; s <nach dem gleichnamigen franz. Spielfilm (1955), der einen raffinierten Bankeinbruch behandelt> raffiniert ausgeklügeltes, in aller Heimlichkeit durchgeführtes Verbrechen … Das große Fremdwörterbuch
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