Directed by: Claude Sautet
Countries & Regions: France, Italy
Studio: British Film Institute
Length: 108 mins
Region: Region 2
Released: 24 February 2014
Cat No: BFIB1185
Screen ratio 1:1.66
Dolby Mono, Mono
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Classe Tous Risques
Lino Ventura and Jean-Paul Belmondo star in this early 1960s French Italian crime drama adapted from the novel by José Giovanni. Abel... Read More
That stranger is career criminal Abel Davos (Lino Ventura), a big-shot-turned-petty-thief who's left down, out and injured – with his two young kids on his hands – after a fateful encounter with some heavily-armed custom officials. Stark's job is to get him back to Paris and then out of sight, though Davos wants a few words with his former partners, who owed him a debt of honour, and didn't really deliver.
Director Sautet, branching out after years as an assistant director, called his style of filmmaking 'pure cinema': light on dialogue, strong on faces and physicality, this time vividly employing Ventura's past experience as a wrestler. "A big plus for Classe tous risques was his instinct for abrupt violence," recalled Sautet decades later. "It was great!" The film was also integral in defining one of the most important screen personas of the 1960s: the ugly-handsome Belmondo's image as a dapper, unflappable modern man with a singular code of ethics and a socially irresponsible way of making smoking look like a really good idea.
For all his stylishness, though, this understated, wintry masterpiece of gangster cinema, about a man in decline in a dirty, deadly business, is bleak, full of regret and stunningly filmed at authentically drab locations. Written, suitably enough, by ex-con José Giovanni, it remains both a massive achievement on its own terms and a model for a new breed of film, its DNA present in everything from Melville's mesmerising Le Doulos to Peter Yates' The Friends of Eddie Coyle. In an overt nod to Sautet's movie, Jean-Luc Godard even went so far as to name a whole film after one of its unseen characters, an underworld figure called Pierrot le Fou.
Often ignored amidst its showier contemporaries, Classe Tous Risques looks better – and greater – with every passing year.
Available on DVD and Blu-ray for the first time ever in the UK is Claude Sautet’s Classe Tous Risques / Consider All Risks (1960), with Lino Ventura, Sandra Milo and Jean-Paul Belmondo), in a Dual Format Edition. A film much praised by an impressive trio of authoritative filmmakers - Jean-Pierre Melville, Robert Bresson and Bertrand Tavernier. The latter noted 'We’ve come to understand that Classe tous risques … was just as revolutionary as Breathless … Sautet was renewing the genre, profoundly, from the inside, instantly turning dozens of contemporary films into dusty relics.'
One of the most surprising things about Sautet’s sinewy film, excavated by the BFI in 2013, is the neglect of a classic French crime movie. The directorial debut of Claude Sautet (1924 - 2000), better known for his later films Un Coeur en hiver (1992) and Nelly et Monsieur Arnaud (1995), Classe tous risques stars the great Italian-born character actor Lino Ventura as Abel Davos, a once powerful Parisian gangster, convicted of multiple crimes in France and sentenced to death in absentia, who has grown weary of his Italian exile and longs to return home with his wife and two small children. In order to finance this ambition, he decides to pull one last job – boldly executed in broad daylight on the streets of Milan – before heading in the direction of Nice. The getaway proves highly perilous, and Abel realises that he will never make it to Paris without a little help from his friends. But his old pals and partners-in-crime – despite the formidable debt they all owe him – are reluctant to risk their own safety. Instead they send a complete stranger, the fresh-faced Eric Stark (the young, then-unknown Jean-Paul Belmondo), to escort their former comrade from Nice to Paris.
Scored by in uncharacteristic fashion by Georges Delerue and shot in expressive black and white by Ghislain Cloquet (later to win an Oscar for Polanski’s Tess), Classe tous risques is based on a novel by death-row-inmate-turned-writer José Giovanni (Le trou, Le deuxième souffle) whose intimate knowledge of the underworld lends an authenticity. Suspenseful and frequently moving, the film is study of loyalty and betrayal, distinguished by a bleak, incisive psychological truth. The relative obscurity of Sautet’s thriller is in many ways an accident of history. It was simply swept away in the frenzy of excitement generated by the Nouvelle Vague which made its classical virtues appear old-fashioned. Released in Paris in March 1960, it was almost immediately overshadowed by Godard’s Breathless (Belmondo’s international breakthrough) which opened a week later.