Touchez Pas Au Grisbi (Day 57)

Touchez Pas au GrisbiMy Opinion: 6.1 || A crime drama on the outside, but really a drama about friendships. It’s nothing special as a thriller, but once you stop looking for genre satisfaction and accept the film as an unhurried exploration of loyalty, it works well.

TITLE: Touchez Pas Au Grisbi
DIRECTOR: Jacques Becker
LANGUAGE: French | COUNTRY: France
YEAR: 1954
PROFILE: Crime Drama | 83 minutes | IMDb (7.9)

SYNOPSIS (Courtesy of IMDb): An aging, world-weary gangster is double-crossed and forced out of retirement when his best friend is kidnapped and their stash of eight stolen gold bars demanded as ransom.

Touchez Pas au Grisbi

Strengths: The protagonist Max’s varied social circle and sometimes costly commitment to his friends skirts stereotypes nicely. It’s an interesting and occasionally sweet portrait of a hard man whose generosity and sense of honor are not always consistent with his survival instincts. The tragic elements are well presented and not over-sold, and Becker strikes a fitting balance in the conclusion.

Weaknesses: Becker is in no rush to get going with the story and advances at a fairly sedate pace until the climactic showdown. Whether that counts as a weakness depends on expectations. It’s a film where we get to watch the retirement-age gangster handing out pajamas and tooth brushes and apologizing for not having better biscuits. The key is to enjoy the film as a character study, rather than to look for the normal elements of a crime thriller.

Touchez Pas Au Grisbi

Characters/Performances: The film is all about Jean Gabin’s Max, and he cuts an unusual figure. The character works well overall, but he often resembles a good maître d’ more than a tough criminal. And then we get the comfy pajamas and pencil-mustached buddy complimenting his “pad.” Probably a more realistic portrait of the gangster in autumn than what films usually provide, but it takes some getting used to. (It’s also a little hard to accept Gabin as a ladies man. They all look like they’re kissing their uncle.)

Best Moment: The climactic shoot-out is pretty great, but I’m going with the peculiar charm of the late-night biscuits and pajamas.

File Under: gangsters, double-crosses, ransoms, Jacques Becker, shoot outs, Jean Gabin, comfortable evening wear