Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Movie: Classe Tous Risques (1960)

It’s a gripe I’ve aired before: the French make peerless crime films, and they also know their way around serious drama. Yet it’s their comedies that are inflicted on the rest of the world. Go figure.

Classe Tous Risques is a seamless combination of those strengths, equal parts hardboiled and humanist. Director Claude Sautet is best known for subtle movies that chart human relationships like Un Coeur en Hiver and Nelly and Monsieur Arnaud. But he got his start co-writing the horror classic Eyes Without A Face. I’d never heard of Classe before Rialto Pictures’ re-release. I won’t soon forget it.

Tough guy Lino Ventura has been hiding out in Italy. When the police close in, his only option is to uproot his family and sneak back into France. But he’ll have to stage a bold daylight heist in Milan first. Once he does, he must rely on a circle of old friends who measure their commitment to him by a different yardstick. He’s also be helped by new ones like Jean-Paul Belmondo, fresh from Breathless and effortlessly cool, and the stunning Sandra Milo.

The title apparently refers to a type of insurance policy but is mainly a French pun on ‘tourist class.’ The movie will be playing at various U.S. cities throughout the summer. It’s worth the trip if it comes to a theater anywhere near you.

Rialto is two for two in 2006, with their reissues of this film and 1948’s The Fallen Idol. The best may be yet to come. They’re presenting the American debut of Jean-Pierre Melville’s WWII resistance drama Army of Shadows. The reviews I’ve read have me counting the days until it turns up in Seattle.

Miscellaneous: Links

Steve Lewis continues to load up Mystery*File with various goodies. Take this reprint of a 1930 Writer’s Digest article on the then-current crop of crime magazines. Gotta love that take on Weird Tales: “carries the most ungodly stories a starved writer in a garret could concoct even if inspired by stale cheese and rye bread with no beer.” Also known as the H. P. Lovecraft diet.

Just think what Jack Webb could have done with the LAPD’s blog. From Mark Evanier.