Saturday, January 22, 2011

#434: Classe Tous Risques

(Claude Sautet, 1960)

Classe Tous Risques is a very good movie, but it's a lock for inclusion in the Collection because it stars two of the greatest French stars of all time, Lino Ventura and Jean-Paul Belmondo. Watching these two together (Belmonde had just made Breathless, and was not yet a star) is a real treat, and it turns a slightly plodding film with no real transcendent moments into an enjoyable exercise in noir.

Ventura plays a crime boss who fled France years before at risk of being arrested. When he attempts to return with his wife and children, he realizes the path isn't going to be as smooth as he had expected. Before long, his old friends have turned on him, and only a rogue thief played by Belmondo is willing to help him out.

Both actors give their trademark performances, with Ventura projecting a complex and quiet strength, while Belmondo effortlessly oozes cool. But the movie itself is only intermittently suspenseful, and while the performances make it compelling and engaging, Sautet (who was essentially debuting as a director) isn't the filmmaker Jules Dassin or Jean-Pierre Melville was. I also found the narration, while informative, to be awkward and abrupt, particularly at the end, which left me somewhat unsatisfied.

Classe Tous Risques ends up being a worthwhile viewing for anyone interested in the 50s and 60s French noirs. But it's definitely not a classic of the era, and remains more notable for its stellar pair of stars.

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