Thursday, 5 June 2008

TOPKAPI (1964)

TOPKAPI is a joy. Directed by Jules Dassin who made the classic RIFIFI which became the template for just about every heist movie made since. Yet TOPKAPI is a very different kettle of fish. Where RIFIFI was a gritty, realistic film noir set in a real world, TOPKAPI is a fantasy and Dassin introduces his main characters - Melina Mercouri and Maximilan Schell almost as characters in a cinematic fairy tale with Mercouri first seen talking directly to the camera framed in a halo of flickering coloured lights. Robert Morely is a modern magician working with eccentric technology and only with the introduction of the character played by Peter Ustinov does Dassin begin to ease his team of thieves into a reconizably real world. The tone, however, doesn't change and while the heist itself at Istanbul's Topkapi museum is both thrilling and suspenseful, the film is about as far from RIFIFI as you can get. One of the measures of Dassin's success is that just as so many films emulated RIFIFI everytime a film robber attaches him or herself to a wire in, say, OCEAN'S ELEVEN (2001) or ENTRAPMENT(1999) they are consciously or unconsciously evoking TOPKAPI. Wouldn't you just know that a remake is on the cards starring Pierce Brosnan. Rating ****

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