Abel Davos is a criminal, hunted in Italy. The police are closing in, so he and his pal Raymond arrange to flee back to France with Abel's wife, Thérèse, and their two young sons. Abel and ...
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Abel Davos is a criminal, hunted in Italy. The police are closing in, so he and his pal Raymond arrange to flee back to France with Abel's wife, Thérèse, and their two young sons. Abel and Raymond commit a brazen robbery to get funds, killing two men; in the escape, more die. Abel arrives in Nice with the boys, calls his pals in Paris, and gets the brush-off. Reluctantly, they send a stranger, Eric Stark, to bring Abel to Paris, but he's getting the message he's on his own. Honor, friendship, and debt now count for little. What can Abel, a wanted man with two small children and only Stark as a friend, do? "Never give ground," he tells Eric, but how long can he hold to his code?Written by
Both Bresson and Melville are reputed to be big fans of "Classe Tous Risques" and it's easy to see why; either man could have directed this classic French gangster picture. The actual director was Claude Sautet and it's one of the greatest second films in movie history, (in the 15 year period between 1956 and 1970 Sautet made only 4 films). He made this one in 1960 around the time of the New Wave and while it's more traditional than something Godard or Truffaut might have done, nevertheless Sautet brings to it a freshness of approach that other gangster pictures of the period seem to lack. From the absolutely stunning opening sequence it's clear that this film will be infused with a good dose of existential angst as well as the requisite thrills that a really good gangster movie needs.
Two fugitives, (Lino Ventura and Stan Krol), have decided it's time to get out of Italy and back to France as the net closes in around them but they need money. They commit a foolhardy, though daring, daylight robbery and go on the run. This opening and the chase that follows is as good as anything in crime movies. The money they make, however, is hardly enough to sustain them, (Ventura has a wife and two sons to support), so they must rely on a network of friends and criminal associates and men on the run, already operating on the very edge, need all the friends they can get, however untrustworthy they may be and these guys friends prove to be very untrustworthy indeed but when tragedy strikes Ventura seems to have no option.
With the possible exceptions of Dassin's "Rififi" and several of Jean-Pierre Melville's classic gangster pictures this remains one of the greatest of genre films and is all the better for being, fundamentally, a low-key character piece. Ventura is perfect as the world-weary thief who would really rather just settle down and raise his family and he is matched by a young Jean-Paul Belmondo as the stranger who becomes his only real friend and ally. The brilliant black and white cinematography is by Ghislain Cloquet, (it was shot largely on location), and it is beautifully adapted by Sautet, Pascal Jardin and Jose Giovanni from Giovanni's novel.
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