Dassin. So I haven’t seen 1949’s Thieves’ Highway from Dassin yet— it has been on my list for awhile. Dassin is known for his superb three early noirs, being blacklisted in Hollywood, and for making Rififi abroad in 1955. For the purposes of this list there are fewer and fewer auteurs that had two films that landed in the top 100 of their respective decade (Rififi, Brute Force) and had some visual consistency in their work like Dassin did. His weakness would be the complete lack of top 500 films of all-time.

Best film: Brute Force. One of the most underrated films of the 1940’s. It’s a brilliant prison film with a noir-like use of shadows and a magnificently dark narrative to match Dassin’s visuals.

it is not a noir film by the strictest definition- – but the silhouette work here from Brute Force is clearly from the same auteur regardless of genre

total archiveable films: 6

top 100 films:  0

top 500 films:  0

top 100 films of the decade: 2 (Brute Force, Rififi)

a gorgeous shot in Rififi
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an intelligent heist procedural- Rififi would influence everything from The Killing to Ocean’s 11
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a superb composition here in Rififi

most overrated: Not a single film- so for Dassin, even with the all the love for noir and the revivals over the years he only has one film in the TSPDT consensus top 1000 and it’s  Rififi at #709—and that is not overrated.

most underrated: It has to be Brute Force. Brute Force would land in my top 600 and as I just said above it isn’t anywhere to be found on the TSPDT list. When you expand and look at the 1001-2000 list on TSPDT it isn’t there either—that’s a tragedy.

gem I want to spotlight : Night and the City. So again, I haven’t seen Thieves’ Highway yet so at least so far Night and the City is the strongest of Dassin’s noir films – great imagery and work from Richard Widmark. It is the film that makes it impossible to go too long when talking about noir and not mention Dassin.

foreground/background mise-en-scene mastery in Night and the City
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haunting imagery
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another great frame from Night and the City

stylistic innovations/traits:  Noir, prison drama and perhaps THE heist film—Dassin was a master of genre. And regardless of which one he was working in (and excelling at) they all have a consistent look—gorgeousness in the shadows. When he came along after the world he was part of Hollywood’s attempt to bring realism to genre (these B-movies, dark (both in mood and lighting) became known as film noir (named by the French). Location-shooting, harsh lighting, resolute camerawork. Rififi would serve as the prototype heist film and influence films like Ocean’s 11.

from Naked City – part of Dassin’s legacy on the film noir genre

top 10

  1. Brute Force
  2. Rififi
  3. Night and the City
  4. Naked City
  5. Topkapi
  6. Never On Sunday

By year and grades

1947- Brute Force HR
1948- Naked City R
1950- Night and the City
1955- Rififi HR
1960- Never on Sunday R
1964- Topkapi R

*MP is Masterpiece- top 1-3 quality of the year film

MS is Must-see- top 5-6 quality of the year film

HR is Highly Recommend- top 10 quality of the year film

R is Recommend- outside the top 10 of the year quality film but still in the archives