Available on DVD and Blu-ray for the first time ever in the UK is Claude Sautet’s CLASSE TOUS RISQUES/CONSIDER ALL RISKS (BFI,1960, with Lino Ventura, Sandra Milo and Jean-Paul Belmondo), in a Dual Format Edition. A film much praised by an impressive trio of authoritative filmmakers — Jean-Pierre Melville, Robert Bresson and Bertrand Tavernier. The latter noted "We’ve come to understand that Classe tous risques … was just as revolutionary as Breathless … Sautet was renewing the genre, profoundly, from the inside, instantly turning dozens of contemporary films into dusty relics." One of the most surprising things about Sautet’s sinewy film, excavated by the BFI in 2013, is the neglect of a classic French crime movie. The directorial debut of Claude Sautet (1924 – 2000), better known for his later films Un Coeur en hiver (1992) and Nelly et Monsieur Arnaud (1995), Classe tous risques stars the great Italian-born character actor Lino Ventura as Abel Davos, a once powerful Parisian gangster, convicted of multiple crimes in France and sentenced to death in absentia, who has grown weary of his Italian exile and longs to return home with his wife and two small children. In order to finance this ambition, he decides to pull one last job – boldly executed in broad daylight on the streets of Milan – before heading in the direction of Nice. The getaway proves highly perilous, and Abel realises that he will never make it to Paris without a little help from his friends. But his old pals and partners-in-crime – despite the formidable debt they all owe him – are reluctant to risk their own safety. Instead they send a complete stranger, the fresh-faced Eric Stark (the young, then-unknown Jean-Paul Belmondo), to escort their former comrade from Nice to Paris.
Scored by in uncharacteristic fashion by Georges Delerue and shot in expressive black and white by Ghislain Cloquet (later to win an Oscar for Polanski’s Tess), Classe tous risques is based on a novel by death-row-inmate-turned-writer José Giovanni (Le trou, Le deuxième souffle) whose intimate knowledge of the underworld lends an authenticity. Suspenseful and frequently moving, the film is study of loyalty and betrayal, distinguished by a bleak, incisive psychological truth. The relative obscurity of Sautet’s thriller is in many ways an accident of history. It was simply swept away in the frenzy of excitement generated by the Nouvelle Vague which made its classical virtues appear old-fashioned. Released in Paris in March 1960, it was almost immediately overshadowed by Godard’s Breathless (Belmondo’s international breakthrough) which opened a week later.