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SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.33:1 Standard
  • French Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono
  • English subtitles
  • 1 Disc
FEATURES
  • Excerpts from Claude Sautet ou La magie invisible, a documentary on the director by writers N. T. Binh and Dominique Rabourdin
  • Archival interview footage featuring actor Lino Ventura discussing his career
  • Original French and U.S. release trailers

Classe tous risques


Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Claude Sautet
Starring: Lino Ventura, Sandra Milo, Jean-Paul Belmondo, Marcel Dalio, Michel Ardan, Claude Cerval
1960 | 108 Minutes | Licensor: Rialto Pictures

Release Information
DVD | MSRP: $29.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #434
RLJ Entertainment

Release Date: June 17, 2008
Review Date: February 20, 2010

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SYNOPSIS

Though sentenced to death, in absentia, in France, former gangland chief Abel Davos (Lino Ventura) sneaks back to Paris with his children after hiding out in Milan for nearly a decade. Accompanied by appointed guardian Eric Stark (Jean-Paul Belmondo, in his first release after Breathless) and beset by backstabbing former friends, Abel begins a journey through the postwar Parisian underworld that's both throat grabbing and soul searching. A character study of a career criminal at the end of his rope, this rugged noir from Claude Sautet (Un coeur en hiver) is a thrilling highlight of sixties French cinema.

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PICTURE

Criterion presents Claude Sautet’s Classe tous risqués in the aspect ratio of 1.66:1 on this dual-layer DVD. The image has been enhanced for widescreen televisions.

I’m actually unsure of the aspect ratio here. This was originally announced on Criterion’s site as being in 1.33:1, though changed to 1.66:1. If I don’t know all the details on something I usually don’t get hung up on aspect ratios (I was fine with the ratio for Magnificent Obsession unlike others) but if I see something off I do have to cry foul. While framing overall looks decent there are moments, specifically many in the middle, where the film’s framing looks drastically off, like the tops of heads being cut off and then maybe too much information at the bottom of the frame. This happens frequently and while I know this was Sautet’s first film on his own as director, I seriously doubt he did this intentionally since he had a lot of experience with other directors (including Jacques Becker and Georges Franju.) True, I don’t know all the facts, so I’m not saying this is a reason not to get the disc, but I felt I should bring it up because frankly some of the things I perceive as framing problems are glaring.

Having said that the transfer for this disc is otherwise up to Criterion’s usual standards. Detail is pretty high and rather striking and the transfer handles the film’s grain structure surprisingly well; it’s not heavy but it’s present and doesn’t look like noise. The digital transfer is pretty clean, only presenting some minor shimmering effects in some of patterns in clothing. Blacks and whites are strong with excellent gray levels. The print is in excellent condition with only a few minor blemishes not really worth noting.

In all what one would expect from Criterion. I still question the framing but it could be this was how the film was shot and/or how the director wished it to be.

7/10

All DVD screen captures are presented in their original size from the source disc. Images have been compressed slightly to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.

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AUDIO

The Dolby Digital 1.0 mono track is fine enough, maybe a touch weak. Dialogue sounds fairly good, though music does have a bit of a tinny sound at times. I didn’t detect any background noise such as hisses or pops. In the end it’s decent enough.

6/10

SUPPLEMENTS

Criterion includes a few supplements on this release, most of which are excerpts from other documentaries or interviews.

First is ’Claude Sautet ou la magie invisible’, an 8-minute excerpt from a documentary of the same name by critics N.T. Binh and Dominique Rabourdin put together in 2002 (or so.) The two apparently made 17-hours worth of recordings with the director and then edited them into this film. Unfortunately since we’re getting excerpts from excerpts we only get maybe 3-4 minutes from those 17-hours. Mixed in here are also interviews with writer Jose Giovanni, directors Bertrand Tavernier and Jean-Paul Rappeneau, and Graziella Sautet (who I assume was his wife.) This is a decent little piece covering Sautet’s career at the time of Classe tous risqués and his early work as an assistant director. There’s coverage of what attracted him to the Giovanni novel (the “idea of decline”) and a little on Lino Ventura. It then concludes with its reception with critics and audiences, which wasn’t good. Though I understand Criterion wanting to keep content down (possibly to keep the disc within a certain price) it’s a shame they didn’t include more from the doc.

Next is an interview with writer Jose Giovanni, which is made up of material that was recorded and used for the same documentary as the last feature, ’Claude Sautet ou la magie invisible’ and edited together exclusively for this release. Running 12-minutes the writer talks about his life on death row and the man he met who was the influence for the novel on which Classe tous risqués was based. He also talks about Sautet’s directing style, the casting of Ventura and Belmondo (who the producers did not want) and its unfavourable reception. He also talks a bit about Le trou and its unfavourable reception, but how it (and to some extent Classe tous risqués) have held up. An excellent inclusion.

Under Lino Ventura there are two segments. The first is a 4-minute piece recorded for French television in 1960 that features an interview with Ventura and Sautet. Ventura talks a bit about his roles and his typecasting as a gangster (though makes sure to mention his future roles don’t fall under that) and then both he and Sautet talk about Class tous risqués, which I assume was either just opening or at least opening soon. The next piece has been edited together by Criterion and runs about 10-minutes. In it they’ve gathered excerpts from other interviews with Ventura over the years, trying to offer a sort of comprehensive break down of his career as a whole, starting with wrestling to his first role in Touchez pas au grisbi to his later years, and even getting his opinion on subjects like “celebrity.” It’s decent but a little jarring since some of the segments are quite short.

The disc then concludes with two theatrical trailers, the original French trailer and then the U.S. trailer, which has everything dubbed in English.

The rather thick booklet comes with a few nice pieces, first an essay by Bertrand Tavernier on the film, another piece covering Sautet’s career as a whole by critic N.T. Binh, a reprint of an excellent interview with Sautet, and then a rather nice tribute to Claude Sautet by Jean-Pierre Melville, which originally appeared in a 1962 issue of Présence du cinema.

A little skimpy, unfortunately, and the fact I know there is more material on Sautet does make it a bit annoying. Still, for the price, the release is a bit of a deal.

6/10

CLOSING

I question the framing but the transfer is still nice and the supplements, though brief, are at least worth going through. Not a really strong release from Criterion but a nice one nevertheless.


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