Rialto Films, the same people who so stunningly restored Henri-Georges Clouzot's Quai des Orfevres and Jean-Pierre Melville's Le Cercle Rouge, have done it again, delivering a sparkling new print of Jacques Becker's Touchez pas au grisbi, from 1953, which is said to have influenced the later works of Dassin (Rififi), Melville (Bob le Flambeur), and Truffaut (Shoot the Piano Player), among others.Touchez (roughly translated as "Don't Touch the Loot") is short on story: Aging mobster Max le Menteur (Jean Gabin) and his long-time partner and friend Riton (René Dary) have carried out their "final" job, the heist of 50 million francs in gold bars from Orly Airport, intending to retire in style. Trouble ensues when Riton's duplicitous girlfriend, the showgirl Josy (a luminous Jeanne Moreau), spills the beans about the heist to a rival gangster, who kidnaps Riton and holds him for ransom.
The joys of Touchez are all in the details:
Gabin is marvelous as Max, a man weary of the underworld life but a man still every bit in control and willing to do what needs to be done to hang on to his grisbi (loot). The crisp black-and-white cinematography of Pierre Montazel is dazzling, showcasing the shabby nightclubs and the rain-glistened streets of Paris by night. Gabin and Dary never fail to delight as loyal friends Max and Riton, ever-the-elegant gentlemen whether in natty pinstripe suits, eating paté and drinking champagne, or in starched pajamas, carefully brushing their teeth before retiring for the night. Jules Wiener's bluesy soundtrack is classic, featuring a memorable harmonica theme. And oh!, the repartee: In one scene, Max grabs Josy underneath her breasts and quips, "Can I give you a hand carrying all that?"; in another, his response to another girlfriend's plaintive, "Do you love me, Max?" is "Just a second."Light as the puff of smoke from Max's cigarette that accompanies that "Just a second," Touchez pas au grisbi is a short 94-minute feast of sights and sounds, friendship and foie gras.