Melina Mercouri in Topkapi (dir. Jules Dassin, 1964).
Jules Dassin transplants the riveting heist mechanics of Rififi into this frothy Turkish confection. Melina Mercouri, Dassin's real-life wife, is a creature from another planet: a brassy, seductive jokestress with an insatiable desire for emeralds and every man in sight. One of those men is Peter Ustinov, chosen by Mercouri's gang of thieves as the "schmoe" who will help them get their equipment across the border into Turkey, and eventually drafted into their scheme in a fuller capacity. His bumbling charm complements Mercouri's batty confidence nicely, with Maximilian Schell acting as a sort of bland buffer. As much as the emerald heist tries to be the film's main set piece, that distinction must actually go to the huge wrestling bout that precedes it: about a hundred greased-up hairy guys trying to rip each other's faces off in a big muddy field, amidst great politeness and ceremony. Strange little film.
Labels: Jules Dassin