Classe tous risques
June 16, 2008
Despite kick-starting his career as a feature film director in the 1960s when the French New Wave was all the rage, Claude Sautet was never part of that movement. He got his start as an assistant director and got the gig for Classe tous risques (1960) thanks to the backing of legendary French actor Lino Ventura. Sautet worked closely with Jose Giovanni, the author of the book on which the film is based on.
After spending almost a decade hiding out in Milan, Mob boss Abel Davos (Ventura) covertly returns to Paris with his family – a wife and two children. With the Italian police closing in and a death sentence hanging over his head, he has little choice. Davos sends his family ahead by train while he and his bodyguard stage a daring crossing of the border, narrowly avoiding the law in an exciting chase sequence.
Davos is smart, employing several modes of transportation but once he arrives in France, the authorities are waiting for him and he pays a heavy price for re-entering the country. He ends up on the run with his two sons. Naturally, Davos has contacts that help him once he gets into the country, including Eric Stark (Belmondo), an appointed guardian who ensures that Davos and his kids make it to Paris safely.
Jean-Paul Belmondo was fresh from the success of Breathless (1960) and in this film plays the kind of cool, professional criminal that his character in Jean-Luc Godard’s film aspired to be. His character is a bit of an enigma who follows his own moral code as exemplified in a scene where he stops along the road to save a woman from being roughed up by her male companion.
Lino Ventura brings a world-weary shrewdness to his role. Davos is a survivor schooled in the ways to evade the law. He also knows how to deal with people, most importantly his children whom he takes care of while on the run. Also interesting to watch is the relationship he has with Stark. There is a mutual respect between the two men that deepens as they spend more time together.
Unfortunately, Classe tous risques was a commercial failure which Sautet took so hard that he announced his retirement as a film director soon afterwards. However, two years later, the film was rediscovered by cinephiles and became something of a cult film while Sautet was lured back into directing by Ventura once again.
“Claude Sautet: ou la magie invisible” is an excerpt from a 2000 documentary about the director with a segment that includes Sautet, Giovanni and filmmaker Bernard Tavernier talking about Classe tous risques. Giovanni talks about the genesis of the project while Sautet speaks about what drew him to it.
There is an interview with screenwriter Jose Giovanni taken from raw footage for the documentary sampled in the previous extra. An ex-convict, the writer talks about the real-life Davos who inspired the book and later the film. He takes us through the process of adapting his book into a film and his impressions of Sautet and Ventura.
Also included are two interviews with actor Lino Ventura. One originally aired in 1960 where he talks about working on the film. He speaks about how he tried to avoid being typecast in gangster roles. The second segment is a collection of archival interviews with the actor where he talks about his career in general, including working on his first film.
Finally, there is the original French theatrical trailer and the U.S. release trailer.