sun 26/05/2019

DVD: Classe Tous Risques | reviews, news & interviews

DVD: Classe Tous Risques

DVD: Classe Tous Risques

Classic French thriller about gangster facing karmic debt

Lino Ventura as Abel, the film's fugitive hero

Claude Sautet’s gripping noir thriller “Classe Tous Risques”, originally released in 1960,  was an inspiration for Jean-Pierre Melville’s collection of peerless films set in the French underworld. Not surprising, as the script was written by the novelist and ex-cop José Giovanni, who also supplied the story for Melville’s classic “Le Deuxième Souffle”. As the excellent TV series "Braquo", written by another ex-policeman, Olivier Marchal, has shown, experience of a profession in which the boundaries between good and evil are blurred makes for convincing and emotionally engaging stories.

Both directors used the actor Lino Ventura, the tough-guy successor to Jean Gabin, the incarnation of Gallic ruthlessness, an edge-of-despair attempt at keeping emotions at bay, which allows just that little bit of vulnerability to come through – enough for us all to identify with the obviously bad guy.

In “Classe Tous Risques” – a pun on the French expression for the more innocuous ‘classe touriste’ – we are on a journey though hardly a tourist trip,  the last-ditch escape from difficulties in Italy, of  the gangland boss Abel.  His destiny darkens as he loses his friend and wife early in the film. The pace never lets up – from the surprisingly dramatic opening, in which the chase – usually a set-piece that comes later in the film – takes off with desperate frenzy.

As all gangland fugitives, Abel seeks help from his old associates, and gets drawn into a web of distrust and betrayal. The tone of the film is set from the outset: it’s is only a matter of time before Abel must settle his karmic debt. The classic fugitive movie tropes are skillfully undermined yet strengthened by the presence of his two kids: as most villains, he feels for his boys, but survival must take precedence.

The cast includes a youthful Jean-Paul Belmondo, as a tough but humane freelance gangster.  For a thriller, the film displays unusual emotional intelligence, a quality displayed throughout the late director’s much later  and very different masterpiece, “Un Coeur en Hiver”.

The bonuses on this re-issue are a little disappointing: a portrait of  under-rated Claude Sautet would have been more useful that the over-long hagiography of lead-actor Lino Ventura that is included in the package. But the movie’s print is crystal clear and the sharpness of the original black-and-white a joy to behold.

The classic fugitive movie tropes are skillfully undermined yet strengthened by the presence of his two kids


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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