Jules Dassin

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6.0 The Affairs of Martha (1942)
5.0 Nazi Agent (1942)
5.0 The Canterville Ghost (1944)
7.0 Brute Force (1947)
7.2 Naked City (1948)
6.5 Thieves' Highway (1949)
7.0 Night and the City (1950)
7.3 Rififi (1955)
6.5 The Law (1959)
6.0 Never On Sunday (1960)
5.5 Topkapi (1964)

Proveniente dal teatro, dopo film minori come la commedia The Canterville Ghost (1944), in cui un fantasma che visse da codardo ispira soldati degli USA a diventare eroi, e The Affairs of Martha (1942), A quiet anonymous suburban community is thrown into panic when a newspaper reveals that someone has written a book about the dirty secrets of the neighborhood. Each family fears that its own maid did it. The young Miranda suspects her maid Martha and her cook Miranda's brother arrives with his fiance Sylvia. They are both highly educated. The maid Martha, disturbed, takes a vacation. She actually visits a publisher: she is the mysterious writer and the publisher knows that she had secretely married Jeff, that Jeff thinks it was a mistake and expects a divorce, and that she has become a writer only to prove to him that she is worthy of him. Jeff, instead, wants a divorce. A neighbor sees the publisher kiss Martha goodnight and then tell Jeff, causing a fight. The following day Jeff reads enough in the newspaper to understand that Martha is the mysterious writer. He confronts her but misunderstands her motive (he thinks she wants to blackmail him). Eventually she tells him the truth. Jeff is now less sure about marrying Sylvia. At a dinner the publisher reveals that Martha is the writer and that her book has received praise from the critics. Jeff has just insulted her and she leaves the house with the publisher. Jeff finally tells his parents and Sylvia that he married Martha, and runs after her. e lo spionistico Nazi Agent (1942), Jules Dassin si segnalo' fra i maggiori principali esponenti del neo-realismo con le denunce sociali di Brute Force (1947) e Naked City (1948), violenti polemici pamphlet sulla violenza che indicavano nella societa' la causa prima del crimine.

Brute Force, sceneggiato da Brooks, e' uno squarcio di vita carceraria.

A prison drenched in a claustrophobic, expressionist atmosphere. A tough inmate, Joe (Burt Lancaster), is released from solitary confinement and returns to the jail he shares with other inmates. The captain who sent him to confinement tries in vain to create a dialogue with him. One morning an important meeting takes place between a politician, who wants tougher discipline, the warden, who tries in vain to improve the conditions, and the doctor, who warns the politician that the prison is a ticking bomb, but who is scorned because he is a notorious drunkard. Joe's sick wife thinks that he deserted her, and refuses to get an operation that would save her life until he returns. His attorney would like to tell her the truth, but Joe doesn't want her to know he's in prison. The man who betrayed Joe with the captain is executed by the other inmates while Joe is with the doctor (his alibi). Joe wants to escape, but he would trust only the influential inmate, respected by both the guards and the inmates, who has been promised an early parole. The captain tries to get a new informer: Tom, a weak man who stole money to buy a fur for his wife and who is still fond of her. The captain makes him desperate by telling him that she wants to divorce him. But Tom disappoints him by committing suicide. The continuous trouble at the prison causes the hard-liners to prevail on the weak warden, who is forced to punish all inmates. The parole of all inmates is indefinitely postponed, which causes the senior inmate to consider Joe's escape plan. Melodramatic flashbacks show the reasons behind each inmate's desire to escape. In the meantime, the warden, the captain and the doctor discuss how to run the prison. The warden is insecure, reluctant to use tough manners, but the captain senses his boss' insecurity and convinces him. Despite being drunk, the doctor understands the captain's ambition to become the next warden, and his sadistic desire to use force, and tells him that he is the real psychopath. In fact, the captain has learned of Joe's escape plan and is setting a trap: he wants to use Joe's attempt to exterminate the prisoners and gain a promotion to warden. He tortures and almost kills one of Joe's friends to find out more details. This inmate asks the doctor to warn Joe. The doctor tries in vain to explain that the captain is using him, Joe, for his political purposes. But Joe is desperate. He knows who the informer is. The captain has placed guards with machine guns in front of the tunnel that the inmates plan to use. As the loudspeakers announce that the warden has resigned and the sadistic captain is now the new warden, the conspirators (led by the senior inmate) launch their attack. The captain personally grabs the machine gun and starts shooting on the crowd of the inmates in the yard. While the main battle is taking place in the yard, Joe and his friends get into the tunnel, using the informer as shield, but they are killed one by one. Joe, fatally wounded, manages to climb the tower and throw the captain down. When the guards restore order, all the protagonists are dead.

Naked City racconta la caccia data da un ispettore a un assassino per le strade di una New York, e proprio queste sono le vere protagoniste del film. Qui la scuola del polizieso documentario sconfina nel neorealismo italiano.

Una giovane e bella indossatrice, Jean, viene assassinata da due sgherri nel suo appartamento. In un quartiere della media borghesia un uomo lascia la famigliola per recarsi al lavoro e presto si mescola alla folla. E` uno dei detective che collabora alle indagini, condotte da un anziano detective che interroga gli amici della vittima e appunta i sospetti su un amico di cui ancora non si sono trovate le tracce. Durante il giorno le indagini proseguono, la sera il detective torna dalla moglie. I genitori della ragazza vengono dalla provincia a vedere il cadavere e la moglie inveisce contro la citta` che ha traviato la loro ragazza con il suo mondo di night club e i suoi miraggi di fama. Il garzone del negozio confessa di averla uccisa, ma e` soltanto un maniaco ossessionato dalla bella cliente che lo accoglieva in neglige`. I detective scoprono che la miglior amica della morta, Ruth, e` fidanzata con uno dei sospetti, Frank, e che l'anello della morta era stato rubato proprio alla madre di Ruth, e che lo stesso anello di fidanzamento dato da Frank a Ruth e` frutto di rapina. Corrono ad arrestare Frank, ma lo trovano stordito mentre un uomo scappa di corsa. Quando Frank rinviene, sostiene che tutti i gioielli erano regali di Jean, che era piu` di una semplice amica. Ruth e` sconvolta dalla notizia. Frank confessa di conoscere l'amico misterioso di Jean, che e` coinvolto nei furti di gioielli: si tratta di un dottore. Le indagini riprendono, i detective sono di nuovo in strada a cercare il sospetto. Trovano il dottore, ma scoprono che si tratta soltanto di un uomo debole, che si lascio` sedurre da Jean e venne usato da Jean e Frank per scovare famiglie abbienti da derubare. La posizione di Frank appare sempre piu` compromessa, ma lui sostiene che a uccidere Jean fu un altro complice, un acrobata che suona l'armonica, Willie. La polizia cerca per le strade questo nuovo sospetto. Quando lo scovano, questi scappa per le strade, finche' la polizia lo bracca su una torre di acciaio. Infine il fuggitivo cade e si schianta al suolo.

Thieves' Highway (1949) e' un altro studio sulla violenza urbana.

Un giovane vuole vendicare il padre, un camionista che e' stato mutilato per punizione dalla mafia, e si scatena contro il boss, riuscendo alla fine a fargliela pagare e a rubargli la ragazza. Meno rigoroso, questo e' un detective movie piu' convenzionale, legato alla mitologia del western e del film noir. Night and the City (1950) e` un film amaro e crudele, teso eduro, che da' un affresco sordido dei bassifondi. The film is a fresco of the underworld. A man, Harry (Richard Windmark), is running away from something through the deserted streets of the night. We only see the shadow of the man who is chasing him. Harry walks into the home of his girlfriend, Mary, and asks her for money to fund his new scheme to get rich quickly, a new fuel pill. She refuses because there have been many other such schemes. She wants him to start a regular career and live a normal life. She guesses that Harry is afraid of walking outside. He tells Mary that he owes money to his partner in business. She borrows the money from Adam, a neighbor and friend who is love with her. Harry walks back to his neighborhood where everybody knows him, and visits his friend Phil, who runs a nightclub with his wife Helen. Harry approaches three businessmen and gives them the address of the nightclub. He then walks into a gym where impresario Kristo is staging a wrestling match which is just for show. Harry witnesses Kristo's father Gregorius, who was once a world-famous wrestler, criticizing Kristo for putting up such a clownish event that is an insult to real wrestling. Harry befriends Gregorius. He approaches Phil with the plan to start a wrestling business using Gregorius as publicity. Phil finds Harry's new plan hilarious because Harry has no credibility anymore. Harry walks around town asking all his friends for money: a panhandler, a forger, a smuggler, a bar owner. Nobody trusts him. Meanwhile, Mary, who has been waiting in vain for Harry, defends Harry when Adam disparages him: Mary pities Harry who never had the education and family that Adam had. Phil is so suspicious of his wife Helen that he never gives her money, but he buys her expensive gifts, including a fur. Helen, who is in love with Harry, sells the fur and offers the money to Harry, but for her her own scheme: she wants Harry to borrow money from Phil, now that he can show he has raised some on his own, and then with that money obtain her license to run a nightclub that has been closed two years earlier. Phil sees her from the window flirting with Harry. When she walks in, Phil tells her that he wants to sell the nightclub and travel with her, but she ignores him. Harry walks in with the money and Phil easily guesses how he got it. Phil gives him the money upon the condition that his involvement remains secret, and hides from Harry the information that Kristo has sent a lawyer to threaten him. Harry quickly opens a gym and an office. Kristo and his lawyer visit him in person to threaten him but Harry pulls out a surprise: Kristo's father Gregorius. Kristo tries in vain to explain to his father that Harry is a swindler. Kristo relents his demand that Harry closes the place but warns him not to swindle his father. Harry is also in trouble with the hotel where he and Gregorius have been staying without paying. Harry has also cheated Helen: he had his friend the forger forge a fake license but gives it to Helen as a real one. Phil overhears the phone conversation and then walks into Kristo's office to offer an alliance against Harry. Phil then tells Harry that he will continue funding the project only if Harry hires the "Strangler", precisely the kind of fake clownish wrestler whom Gregorius hates. Harry provokes the Strangler to challenge Gregorius, and the Strangler falls into the trap, provoking in turn Gregorius to allow a real wrestling match between his protege' champion Nikolas and the Strangler. Harry walks to Phil to ask for the money needed to pay for the match that Phil himself had asked for, but Phil betrays him: he informs Kristo that Harry is having the clownish wrestler fight his father's protege, letting Kristo kill Harry for conning his father. And Phil leaves Harry without the money to stage the match. Harry is now in big trouble on two fronts: he owes money to the Strangler's manager and he has to face Kristo's wrath. Desperate, Harry calls Mary to an appointment and then enters her apartment when she's out. Adam has seen him and then sees Mary rushing to an appointment with Harry. Adam tells Mary and Mary runs back home to find Harry stealing her money. Harry doesn't stop in front of Mary's tears. Harry gives the money to the Strangler's manager to pay for the match. Unfortunately, the Strangler, drunk, insults Gregorius, Gregorius attacks him, they fight, Gregorius wins the fair fight, but Gregorius dies of a heart attack just when Kristo walks in. Harry runs away. Kristo puts a bounty on Harry's head by word of mouth. Adam and Mary learn of the bounty from Kristo's lawyer, and realize that Harry's life is in danger. Despite what he has done to Mary, they set out to find him before the thugs will. Helen is walking out on Phil with her suitcase. She tells him that she is in business with Harry (she still thinks her license is authentic) and says goodbye. In reality, Harry is running through the streets, hunted by all sorts of people who want to cash the bounty. Harry kills one who had cornered him and then, looking for a hideout, phones a friend. His friend offers shelter but then calls Kristo. Meanwhile, Helen has taken possession of the old nightclub but a cop easily find out that the license is a forgery. Helen, heartbroken, returns to Phil. She finds Phil dead: he killed himself after she left him. Harry gets suspicious when his friend locks the door. Harry runs again through the city. The sun is rising when he reaches the house of his friend the old smuggler. She tells him that nobody can help him anymore. Mary finds him there (we don't know how). This time Harry has an idea on how to make her rich (not himself): he walks out and shouts that she betrayed him so that Kristo will pay her the bounty. He is grabbed by the Strangler and thrown into the river. Kristo watches from a bridge. The Strangler is arrested by cops alerted by the good Adam, who also finds Mary crying alone and walks away with her.

Il suo impegno civile lo mise nei guai con il maccartismo e dovette infine fuggire in Francia. Li' diresse un film noir che creo' un sottogenere, quello del caper film, Du Rififi (1955). La sequenza piu' celebre e' quella dello scasso, che dura 35 minuti ed e' muta: un capolavoro di tensione drammatica.

Jo, married to Louise with a child, rescues his best friend Tony who has lost all his money at poker. Tony is getting old, he is coughing nonstop and is broke. Jo is generous with him because five years earlier Tony went to prison and saved Jo from prison. Jo takes Tony to a coffeehouse where they meet a friend, Mario. Jo and Mario present a plan for a heist to Tony, but Tony doesn't believe that Mario's plan can work. Jo tells Tony that his old girlfriend Mado is back in town and works in a nightclub owned by gangster Pierre. Tony confronts her and tells her that he just came out of jail a month earlier. She wears a fur and expensive jewelry. He demands her ring, bracelet and necklace, makes her strip, beats her up and then kicks her out. Somehow this encounter changes his mind about the heist and he calls Jo that he is interested in the heist, except that he wants to steal more than what Mario wanted. Tony is certain that he can fence the loot to his friend Teddy in London. To open the safe of the jewelry shop, Mario calls his Italian friend Cesar. Mario brings Cesar to the same club where Mado works, Pierre's club. Pierre is harassing his drug-addict younger brother. While Cesar is romancing one of the singers, Viviane, Tony introduces himself to Pierre and Pierre warns him to stay out of his business. After lengthy and careful preparations, on a sunday night the quartet walks into the apartment upstairs from the jewelry shop and tie and gag the owners. Then they roll up a carpet and begin to dig a hole in the floor. They Tony climbs down a rope into the room with the safe and disables the alarm system with some kind of foam. The others climb down and Cesar opens the safe. They tale the jewels and climb back up through the hole in the ceiling. But, before following them, Cesar steals one more jewel, a ring, from a desk. Then they flee in a stolen car that Tony later abandons by the river. Each of the four already knows what to do with his share of the money, except Tony who doesn't know. The following day the newspapers talk about the heist. Cesar gives the ring that he kept for himself to his lover Viviane. Pierre sees that Mado has bruises all over her body and guesses who did it. Despite being abused by Tony, Mado decides to leave Tony, further infuriating Pierre. Pierre catches his brother trying to open the drawer of his desk where the drugs are hidden. Instead of beating him, Pierre offers him drugs to kill Tony. At the same time his gang tells Pierre that Cesar gave Viviane a valuable ring. Pierre connect the dots, and guesses that Tony and his pals are behind the heist. Pierre's gang forces Cesar to cooperate. Cesar tells them that Mario has the loot. The gang then breaks into Mario's house and forces his wife to call Tony but his wife instead warns Tony that Pierre's gang is after the loot. Tony rushes to the house and finds the couple dead. He takes the loot and then visits Mado because he wants her to help him meet Pierre, but she refuses. At night Tony, armed, breaks into Pierre's nightplace but finds only Cesar. tied to a post. Tony coldly executes the traitor after telling him that Mario has been murdered. Pierre's gang kidnaps Jo's little son. Tony promises Jo that he will the child. The London fence delivers a suitcase full of money to Tony. Tony explains to Jo that Pierre would never let the child go alive because he has seen the kidnappers, and the only way to rescue the child is with the gun. Mado offers to help and tells Tony that the child is most likely held in a countryside villa. She tricks a member of the gang to take the metro to the villa so that Tony can follow him. While Pierre is out, Tony easily rescues the child from the villa but then kills Pierre's brother in cold blood. Tony then steals the car of the gangsters and drives the boy back to Paris. Meanwhile, Pierre is giving Jo an ultimatum and Jo decides to pay the money. Tony stops at a coffeehouse to call Jo and give him the good news but instead learns that Jo is about to pay the ransom. Jo drives to Pierre who has returned to the countryhouse villa. Pierre coldly tells Jo that Tony already took the child and then kills Jo. Tony leaves the child at the coffeehouse, drives back and hears the shot when he arrives. Pierre shoots Tony and Tony, wounded, shoots Pierre. Tony finds Jo dead, picks up the suitcase, picks up the child, drives back to Paris bleeding copiously from his wound. The child enjoys the high-speed ride but Tony is obviously dying. He dies precisely when he parks under Jo's apartment. Jo's wife can hug her child again. Two cops arrive and open the suitcase that is lying in the back seat.
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The Law (1959)

Never On Sunday (1960) is a comedy in which a distinguished American scholar meets a prostitute in Greece and tries to turn her into a lady.

Topkapi (1964) is a comedy about an international band of thieves. It is not original, and it is not even funny.

Elizabeth surveys the treasure of Istanbul's palace (the Topkapi) and dreams of stealing his jewels. Back in Paris, she meets her old Swiss lover, a professional thief who has never been arrested. He accepts the challenge and proposes to hire amateurs, people of whom the police has no record. They travel to Greece and pay a small-time impostor, Peter Ustinov, to drive a car to Istanbul. The man gets stopped by Turkish customs who find weapons hidden in the car. He is arrested as a suspected terrorist and, under threat of death, forced to become one of their counterterrorism agents. When he rejoins the couple and their crew, he becomes convinced that they are Russian spies plotting a major terrorist attack. He sends messages to the Turkish police, who keep the group under surveillance. Finally, one day the gang invites him to join the heist and he understands that he got it all wrong. He tells them the truth, but they decide to go ahead with the plan. The heist succeeds but they got caught nonetheless and end up in a Turkish jail.
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