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R.I.P. Jules Dassin

Just a week after Richard Widmark, the star of his classic 1950 noir Night And The City, passed away, director Jules Dassin has followed at age 96. Dassin was one of the masters of the noir genre, bringing great style and a subversive affection for the criminal kind to such hard-hitting films as Brute Force, Thieves' Highway, and the aforementioned Night And The City—all three of which are available on fine Criterion DVDs. Dassin's career in Hollywood was short-circuited when he was brought before the House Un-American Activities Committee and blacklisted for not naming names. Fleeing to France, Dassin had trouble finding work since European productions made by blacklisted filmmakers were not allowed a U.S. release. But after a few years in the wilderness, Dassin returned with the model 1955 heist film Rififi, which builds to a near-silent, half-hour break-in sequence that directly influenced the Langley break-in in Brian De Palma's Mission: Impossible and Dassin's own airy heist comedy Topkapi. Still active in his very advanced years, Dassin participated in the Criterion reissues of his work, which together make a convincing argument for him as one of the great directors of crime films.

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