Though sentenced to death in France, in absentia, former gangland chief Abel Davos (Lino Ventura) sneaks back to Paris with his children after hiding out in Milan for nearly a decade. Accompanied by appointed guardian Eric Stark (Jean-Paul Belmondo, in his first film after Breathless) and beset by backstabbing former friends, Abel begins a journey through the postwar Parisian underworld thats equal parts throat-grabbing and soul-searching. A character study of a career criminal at the end of his rope, this rugged noir from Claude Sautet (Un coeur en hiver) is a thrilling highlight of sixties French cinema.
SPECIAL EDITION FEATURES: New, restored high-definition digital transfer Excerpts from Claude Sautet ou La magie invisible, a documentary on the director by writers N.T. Binh and Dominique Rabourdin Archival interview footage featuring actor Lino Ventura discussing his career Original French and U.S. release trailers New and improved English subtitle translation PLUS: New essays by director Bertrand Tavernier and critic N. T. Binh, a reprinted interview with Sautet, and a tribute by Jean-Pierre Melville
Claude Sautet's neo-realist Classe Tous Risques (loosely translated as "all-risk insurance") deserves the kind of acclaim accorded classic American noirs, like They Live by Night. As with Nicholas Ray before him, the Frenchman behind the exquisitely restrained chamber pieces Un Coeur en Hiver and Nelly et Monsieur Arnaud combines genre tropes with tenderness. It's a tricky balance, and far too many filmmakers succumb to pathos when making the attempt. Milan-based gangster Abel Davos (former wrestler Lino Ventura, Jean-Pierre Melville's Army of Shadows) won't hesitate to plug a foe, but dotes on his two sons, wife Therese (Simone France), and partner Raymond (Stan Krol). When a robbery goes bad, however, several of those nearest and dearest to Davos lose their lives. In swoops ex-boxer Eric Stark (Jean-Paul Belmondo, just off Breathless) who helps him escape to Paris--by ambulance. Damsel-in-distress Liliane (8 1/2's Sandra Milo) joins the duo on their dangerous journey. Round Midnight's Bertrand Tavernier describes the matter-of-fact ending as "abrupt, unsentimental, and poignant." Written by ex-con José Giovanni (Le Trou) and shot by Ghislain Cloquet (Mouchette), Sautet's first feature, after assisting Georges Franju and Jacques Becker, got lost amidst the French New Wave. It may not surpass Melville for cool, but rivals him in the hood-with-heart department (and Melville greatly admired the film). Supplements include the French and US trailers, interviews with Giovanni and Tavernier from the 2000 documentary Claude Sautet ou la Magie Invisible, and comments from Ventura, circa 1959-1987 about the movie and his career. --Kathleen C. Fennessy