~Classe Tous Risques
November 18, 2005 by JAN ALBERT
Don’t let this little film noir gem slip through the cracks again !
Originally released in 1960, just as the New Wave rushed in, Classe Tous Risques
(which is a play on a kind of French insurance policy and also slang for “tourist class”)
got lost in the shuffle. It hasn’t been shown in America in more than 40 years, but
it feels very fresh.
A couple of lines of pulp fiction narration introduce world weary tough guy Abel Davos
(Lino Ventura) and his partner seconds before they pull an audacious payroll heist on
a crowded Milano street. Then comes the exhilarating chase; cross borders by car,
motorcycle, boat, ambulance, and finally on foot. On the lam with 2 kids, the cops
are closing in and Davos calls in some favors. The former partners in crime he sprang
from the joint back in the day are now sitting pretty in Paris and not eager to get
involved. Still, it’s payback time and they send a very young Jean Paul Belmondo
(his next film, Breathless, would make him a star) to bring the old gang boss back
home with the help of (pre-Fellini) vavavoom Sandra Milo.
The gangsters and the good guys all have great faces, and the film is full of beautiful
touches throughout; a muddied high heel, a surreptitious meet in the Nice post office.
Director Claude Sautet includes a lovely first kiss in a great old Parisian elevator
and a pass the time of day exchange between our desparate criminal and a house maid
fetching water in the building where he’s hiding out —- moments that may add
nothing to the arc of the screenplay but are the stuff that make movies live in your heart.
Our anti-hero follows his code of ethics to the very end, taking care of his kids’ future,
making peace with his friends and fixing his enemies, before meeting his destiny
like a man.
Make it a film noir night to remember — rent Rififi and Touchez-pas au Grisbi, two
other fabulous French underworld flicks rescued from unjust obscurity by Film Forum
programmer Bruce Goldstein and Rialto Pictures.
Regrettably, they really don’t make them like this anymore.