Tag Archives: Jean-Paul Belmondo

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

Watch the trailer:

The Jean-Pierre Melville Collection

Le Doulos

Format: DVD

Release date: 2 March 2009

Distributor: Optimum Home Entertainment

Director: Jean-Pierre Melville

Titles: L’Armée des ombres, Le Doulos, Léon Morin, prêtre, Le Cercle rouge, Bob le flambeur, Un flic

Cast: Alain Delon, Jean-Paul Belmondo, Lino Ventura, Simone Signoret, Yves Montand

France 1956-1972

Across the 13 movies he made until his death aged 55 in 1973, Jean-Pierre Melville created a world that has been rarely matched in the history of cinema – for its pessimism. No one ever really smiles in Melville’s movies. Indeed, his characters rarely display any emotion other than a kind of clenched-jawed resignation. Few people escape the downward spiral of their destiny. Music and colour are almost entirely absent, not least in the films that he actually shot in colour. Dialogue is used sparingly and even then purely as a motor for the plot. It’s for these reasons, perhaps, that he found himself on the ‘approved’ list of filmmakers that the French New Wave directors acknowledged as an influence, but the uncluttered purity of his vision means that his films will never date. With the notable exception of 1956’s Bob le flambeur, which spends its first 40 minutes exploring and documenting the criminal demi-monde of Paris’ Montmartre, his gangster movies could be set in any city in the world at any time since the 1920s.

Melville started making films at the end of a period that seems quaintly remote today, a time when the Parisian intellectual elite were open and effusive in their reverence for American pop culture. Melville took this reverence further than most, changing his surname from Grumbach in tribute to Herman Melville and constantly wearing either a private eye’s fedora or a Stetson in homage to the Howard Hawks and John Ford movies that he loved.

Roughly speaking, his films can be split into two groups: the more personal and reflective Second World War Occupation films (Melville was a member of the French Resistance) and the gangster pictures for which he is today most famous. The latter took his obsession with Americana to extremes, boiling down the traditional tropes of film noir until they became little more than a series of fetishes – trilbys and handguns, betrayal and belted mackintoshes. His greatest works – the loose trilogy of Alain Delon pictures that started with 1967’s Le Samourai, through Le Cercle rouge and his final film, Un flic – are remarkable for their emotional and visual murkiness. He famously described his vision for Un flic as being ‘to make a colour film in black and white, in which there is only one tiny detail to remind us that we really are watching a film in colour’.

Amidst this almost Spartan vision, though, Melville also proved himself the master of the gripping set-piece, something which undoubtedly led to the commercial success of his films from Bob le flambeur onwards. Le Cercle rouge is based around the robbery of an upscale jewellery shop, while Un flic actually features two separate heist sequences. Like, say, Dashiell Hammett’s novels, Melville’s pared-down style was actually the result of a supreme craftsman jettisoning anything unnecessary to the motion of his movies – so if you just want Melville’s films to be entertainment, they’re certainly that. But if you also want them to be art, you’ll be well rewarded.

Pat Long

Throughout August and September 2017, BFI Southbank in London presents a comprehensive two month season dedicated to Jean-Pierre Melville, to mark his centenary year.
To enjoy 2 tickets for the price of 1 on all screenings in this season simply quote MELVILLE241 online, in person or over the phone 020 7928 3232. For more information and to book tickets online, visit
BFI website