Tag Archives: French New Wave

Classe tous risques

Classe tous risques
Classe tous risques

Format: Cinema

Release date: 13 September 2013

Distributor: BFI

Director: Claude Sautet

Writers: Claude Sautet, Pascal Jardin

Based on the novel by: José Giovanni

Cast: Lino Ventura, Jean-Paul Belmondo, Sandra Milo, Marcel Dalio

France 1960

110 mins

A train station in Italy. Two small children receive a furtive send off before boarding a train alone with their mother. Their father, a fugitive gangster, has decided that it’s time for the family to return home to France after ten years in hiding, but to finance the move, Abel Davos (Lino Ventura) needs to pull off one last job, a brazen theft in broad daylight in Milan. Of course, that theft only increases the unwanted attention from the police, and Davos’s flight to the border, and eventually to Paris, is a dramatic, dangerous and ultimately tragic grasp at freedom, which underpins Claude Sautet’s fantastic thriller about a once-powerful man now struggling for his survival.

Based on a novel by José Giovanni, written after the author’s release from jail, Classe tous risques (Consider all Risks) gets off to a dynamic start, with Davos’s getaway from Milan relayed in a terrific action sequence, involving cars, motorbikes and a boat landing on the French shore under the cover of night. But when the worst happens, Davos finds he must turn to his former partners-in-crime for help. His ‘friends’ in Paris now live more respectable lives, safe only because he took the fall for their misdeeds in the past, culminating in his exile. But now, years later, they are reluctant to pay their debts. Instead of becoming personally involved, they send Eric Starck, a young man-on-the-make (played by a terrific Jean-Paul Belmondo) to pick up Davos in the south of France and bring him back to Paris.

Davos, who should be more concerned with the welfare of his family, is quietly furious and turns to plotting his revenge, seeking payback for this latest betrayal – with the help of Eric, who goes above and beyond the call of duty to protect Davos and his children. From this point on, despite clear indications of the brutality that lurks below the gangster’s charismatic exterior, Sautet sets up a blend of moral ambiguities and dilemmas, making it almost impossible not to empathise with Davos – even if his actions can’t be condoned.

Classe tous risques is released in the UK as a BFI Dual Format (DVD/Blu-ray) edition on 24 February 2014.

Classe tous risques is a taut, original gangster film told with simplicity and a compelling directness, with bare-bones exposition and a neorealist touch. But there are also deeper, more thoughtful issues in play with Sautet’s no-punches-pulled exploration of the conflicts between loyalty and family, and the code of honour among thieves. The result is a tour de force, which is rounded out by a soundtrack by Georges Delerue and beautifully composed cinematography from Ghislain Cloquet. In one memorable shot, a woman that Davos and Eric encounter, having only just realised that she might be in the company of criminals, is caught between Eric in the background, while in the foreground, a telephone – a link to the cops – is separated from her by a pane of glass. Her moment of hesitation as she decides between right and wrong is exquisite.

It’s only a shame that Classe tous risques was utterly eclipsed on its original release by Belmondo’s other film, Breathless, coming out in the same year, and the ensuing excitement over the French New Wave. But the real mystery lies in why Sautet rarely returned to the underworld of gangsters and criminals during his career, choosing instead to focus on dramas set in the world of the bourgeoisie – films which, admittedly, brought him more success than this overlooked, but rich contribution to the genre.

Sarah Cronin

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Frances Ha

Frances Ha4
Frances Ha

Format: Cinema

Release date: 26 July 2013

Distributor: Metrodome

Director: Noah Baumbach

Writers: Noah Baumbach, Greta Gerwig

Cast: Greta Gerwig, Mickey Sumner, Adam Driver

USA 2012

86 mins

It all starts with a mobile phone. Frances, a 27-year-old living in New York, points out that her best friend Sophie (Mickey Sumner) has become distracted since getting a ‘cell with emails’. They’re at that age: on the cusp between post-grad optimism and the realities of growing up, and while some (Sophie) are cranking up to professional success and personal fulfilment, others (Frances) are still struggling to get themselves going.

Frances, played by mumblecore darling Greta Gerwig, is a long-term dance understudy. Refreshingly, Frances is what Americans refer to as a bit of a ‘clutz’, masculine of gait and gauche of manners. It is no surprise to the viewer that she is forever the stand-in and never the lead. At the beginning of the film, she splits up with her boyfriend and the ensuing action sees the remainder of her life (primarily her close friendship with Sophie) unravel.

With its New York setting, witty yet flawed female protagonist and concern with the hinterland between youth and adulthood, Frances Ha already appears a lot like Lena Dunham’s Girls, and that’s even before Adam Driver (who stars in the HBO series, as well as Dunham’s earlier film, Tiny Furniture) appears on screen, playing a potential love interest for ‘undateable’ Frances. You may wonder whether it was budget constraints or a nod to Tiny Furniture that caused Frances’s parents to be played by Gerwig’s own parents, just as Dunham’s mother and sister starred as those of her character in Tiny Furniture. The answer is probably both. It most certainly can’t be a coincidence: Gerwig, who co-wrote the film with Noah Baumbach, and Dunham are good friends.

But where Girls is squalid and explicit, Frances Ha is cute and whimsical, thanks in part to its French New Wave influence (it is shot in black and white, has a soundtrack that references Truffaut and indulges Frances with the occasional long tracking shot of her running or dancing through Manhattan). It is also funnier. Where Dunham’s characters might strip off and engage in humiliating sex on camera, Frances simply refers to an ex who could only climax when having sex with her from behind, lamenting the fact that in this position ‘all the important things are covered’.

To challenge the current popular thinking that television has overcome film as the medium with which to tell sophisticated and powerful stories, despite using the same milieu and subject matter as Dunham, Baumbach and Gerwig have created something more joyful and more entertaining than its television counterpart. But they’re lucky. Their film, which has an uplifting if slightly idealised ending, exists in its own finite universe. Girls, which is far more bleak and problematic, is perhaps feted to be so, given that it lives or dies on the vagaries of television commissioners. The mediums have similar backgrounds but, while one is already established in telling stories of this nature, the other is still finding its feet, just like Sophie and Frances.

Lisa Williams

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