Claude Sautet’s French Noir Masterpiece “Classe tous risques”, New 4K Restoration Opens March 15 at Film Forum

Classe-tous-risquesA new 4K restoration of Claude Sautet’s CLASSE TOUS RISQUES (1960), a masterpiece of French Noir starring Lino Ventura (ARMY OF SHADOWS) and a very young Jean-Paul Belmondo, will run at Film Forum from Friday, March 15 through Thursday, March 21.

Neo-realism meets Noir, as gangster and family man Ventura, holed up in Italy for over a decade, needs some startup money to return to France, where he’s been sentenced to death in absentia. With Milan’s Duomo looming in the background (shot on location), he and a crony execute a split-second payroll heist — in broad daylight — then begin a lightning-fast getaway via underground passages, car, motorcycle, bus, speedboat, and ambulance. Only the beginning of the mounting mayhem.

Bridging argot-rich 50s masterworks like RIFIFI and TOUCHEZ-PAS AU GRISBI with Melville’s pared-down thrillers of the 60s, CLASSE TOUS RISQUES (the title refers to a type of insurance policy, à la DOUBLE INDEMNITY, but is also a pun on “tourist class”) is a penetrating study of a tough guy at the end of his rope, drawn from screenwriter José Giovanni’s first-hand knowledge of the post-war French underworld.

Directed with an acute feeling for characterization, this was Sautet’s first major feature and the first teaming of two great French cinema icons: former wrestling champ Ventura, here making a career-decisive move into lead roles, and 26-year-old New Wave wunderkind Belmondo, straight from Godard’s BREATHLESS.

Despite a “Who’s Who” crew and cast — including composer Georges Delerue (CONTEMPT), cinematographer Ghislain Cloquet (AU HASARD BALTHAZAR), and co-stars Marcel Dalio (GRAND ILLUSION, CASABLANCA), Sandra Milo (the late star of Fellini’s 8 ½) — CLASSE got lost in the New Wave shuffle. In this country, a dubbed version called THE BIG RISK came and went in drive-ins and grindhouses before disappearing— until Rialto Pictures’ first U.S. release of the complete French language version in 2005.