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Another film shown at the International Istanbul Film Festival that's worth mentioning is 'Topkapi', Jules Dassin's classic heist film set in Istanbul. Essentially a 60's version of his masterpiece 'Rififi' (reviewed here before), the film replaces film noir Paris with a dazzlingly exotic Istanbul, in a mix of screwball comedy and suspense, and with an equally 60's psychedelic title sequence.

The object of the heist is the famous Emerald Dagger in the Topkapi Palace (where it can be seen today, though slightly less accessibly displayed). Characteristically, there is a long run-up to the heist - assembling the gang of eccentric European specialists, crafting the audacious plan, along with some comic relief from Peter Ustinov as the lost Brit who gets entangled in the criminals' web.

This part of the film also contains some interesting documentary-style couleur locale sequences of Istanbul, showing the city as it was half a century ago, with many of the Ottoman wooden houses still standing and the city still contained within its walls. (In the 1960's the population of Istanbul, at less than two million, was a fraction of what it is today.)

But what makes the film a classic in the genre is the heist itself, a long, nailbitingly suspenseful scene, in almost complete silence, of the gang breaking into the Topkapi Palace to steal the dagger. No need to spoil the plot here, just see for yourself. It's almost as good as 'Rififi'!

Here's the trailer, a self-referential classic in itself.



Rififi is French slang for 'trouble', 'brawl' or 'rough-and-tumble'. The word was made popular by the 1955 film ' Rififi ', or in full 'Du Rififi chez les Hommes', based on the novel by Auguste Le Breton and directed by Jules Dassin . … Read the full post »

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