Touchez pas au grisbi. 1954. France. Directed by Jacques Becker. Written by Becker, Albert Simonin, Maurice Griffe, from a novel by Simonin. With Jean Gabin, Rene Dary, Dora Doll, Jeanne Moreau, Lino Ventura. In French; English subtitles. 35mm. 94 min.
His career as a professional wrestler compromised by an injury, the 35-year-old Ventura reluctantly accepted an offer from the director Jacques Becker to play a supporting role in this 1954 crime film. It became a major hit, relaunching the career of its fading star, Jean Gabin, and sealing a friendship between Ventura and Gabin that continued until Gabin’s death. Becker’s take on the genre emphasizes relationships over action, as Gabin’s character, an aging gunman, tries to secure his place in an underworld increasingly dominated by unprincipled rivals (such as Ventura’s aggressive young Angelo). Watch for Jeanne Moreau, also at the beginning of her career, as a dancer who finds Ventura a better bet for the future.