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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

CLASSE TOUS RISQUES / THE BIG RISK (1960)


Claude Sautet‘s stunning directing debut is adapted from a typically tough-minded gangster tale by ex-con/writer José Giovanni. Lino Ventura plays a doomed gangster on-the-run (doesn’t he always?) who claws his way to Paris only to find his old chums coming up short in the loyalty department and a new pal (Jean-Paul Belmondo in irresistibly dewy form) holding firm. The two-reel prologue which goes from a daytime robbery in Turin, Italy to a deadly race-to-escape over land & sea, is almost too good. The rest of the film can’t maintain the propulsive level of suspense & character identification balanced against such believable & despicable acts of violence and murderous self-preservation. It’s a knock-out opening; the rest of the film is merely superb. Sautet began helming just as the French Nouvelle Vague came along to dominate the scene and his cinematic classicism has been undervalued ever since.

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