Saturday, 8 February 2014

Blu-ray Review: Classe Tous Risques

Based on a novel by former Death Row inmate Jose Giovanni, 'Classe Tous Risques' follows gangland boss Abel Davos (Lino Ventura) who has spent a decade in Italy with a death sentence hanging over his head. Davos hooks up with a confederate named Raymond Naldi (Stan Krol), aiming to secure a return to France for his wife and two young sons. Desperate for money, the pair indulge in a spot of bag snatching and, with the police in hot pursuit, make their getaway by car and boat before an encounter with border officials leaves his wife and Naldi dead. Now Davos has to rely on his colleagues to get him out of the country, but finds loyalty to be an all-too rare commodity.
Enter Eric Stark(Jean-Paul Belmondo, who earlier that year made his name in 'Breathless')who is sent in an ambulance to rescue Davos. For a while, Able resents the fact that a stranger has been sent to collect him and although it's a sticking point for the rest of the film, a bond forms between the pair. Stark is played in Belmondo's effortlessly cool manner, who in between his relationship with Davos and the kids, even finds time for a relationship with actress Liliane (Sandra Milo) who is also rescued; this time after a roadside altercation with her manager.

'Classe Tous Risques' marked Claude Sautet's directorial debut and is a powerful, often moving piece and a remarkably assured debut which takes a through-a-glass-darkly look at both the ties that bind family and(dis)honour amongst thieves. Ventura is absolutely top-notch here, juggling his sons' welfare with a desire to settle scores, while being defiantly aware of his own mortality. Check out the scene where Davos instructs his eldest son to take his brother's hand and always walk ten yards behind, in case their father should be apprehended and surrounded by men. It's a supremely moving scene, in a taut, tense 108 minutes that justifies its status as one of the Finest crime dramas to come out of France.

'Classe Tous Risques' was previously unseen in the UK until the British Film Institute released it in selected cinemas in September 2013. Now, the BFI have brought this film to Blu-ray and DVD in a dual format edition.
This brand new restoration utilised the original 35mm negative for the picture, and the audio was sourced from the original 35mm interpositive. Dirt and debris were removed using the M.T.I restoration system, and the result is a beautiful monochrome picture that exhibits splendid detail and a fine layer of grain. Fans of this film should be delighted with the image and sound quality here.

The BFI have also included a 35 minute documentary, 'Monsieur Ventura'. Here, friends and colleagues are interviewed about this great actor with Charles Aznavour, Jose Giovanni, Roger Hanin, Georges Lautner, Henri Cogan and others discussing Lino's career, with Cogan revealing they once took part in a wrestling bout (the bill poster is displayed) where Lino shattered his leg, only to get his own back years later. All the participants show great respect for his screen presence and great strength of character, with Hanin declaring Lino to be a better actor than himself.
Ventura possessed a great comic talent, but ultimately opted for dramatic roles and participants here reveal he was a man who would turn down any role that didn't seem right and true for him; even at the expense of losing a sizeable pay cheque. 'Classe Tous Risques' was exactly right for him, and this collection of interviews compliments his talents with an absorbing account of his life and career.

This BFI release concludes with the original French and US trailers - the latter designed to centre on Belomondo's place in the public eye after 'Breathless' - and there's also an illustrated booklet with a newly commissioned essay from The Guardian's John Patterson.
'Classe Tous Risques' is released for home video in the UK on 24th February.

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