Classe tous risques

The hero is a man who risks everything for his friends. When he gets into a jam, they send a hireling. He dismisses them, they plot against him, he exacts revenge.

The remarkable thing is that the hero is a professional criminal sentenced to death in absentia. Sautet, however, and perhaps for this reason, ruthlessly excises anything remarkable from this film, preferring the Roman dictum nil admirari in an absolute deadpan and yet not making this “a new occasion, a new term of relation... an expressive act,” as Beckett says. His is an electric truth, the style is insulation.

Milan, the train station. Mother, father, two young sons on an escalator, the camera takes a parallel ride. Mother and children board the train, father and an associate rob two uniformed bank couriers on the busy street by daylight. They make a getaway on foot, in a car (the camera’s POV rolls toward its side into curves) and on a motorcycle for the associate, who encounters a roadblock that sends him off cross-country like Steve McQueen in The Great Escape.

The shots are good, great even, but nothing demonstrative, no emphasis. The two re-unite past the roadblock, exclaiming, “we’re the greatest!” The haul is less than it should be.

With the rest of the family, they repair to San Remo by boat, landing at night. Two gendarmes of the customs service accost them, mother and associate are killed in a shootout, and both policemen. Father and sons hole up in Nice.

A phone call to Paris sets the whole gang in motion, inventing excuses. They buy a used ambulance for transport (with a compartment for a small boy and a machine gun). A volunteer comes forward to drive it.

Back in Paris, everyone is faced down, the boys stay with an old friend (a guard at the Maritime Museum), father with the volunteer. An interior decorator and fence (for 25 cents on the dollar) is hit for a tidy sum. He applies to the gang, who hire a private detective.

The decorator is killed, then the would-be leader, whose ailing wife dies shortly thereafter. The volunteer is picked up for harboring a fugitive, the hero can’t help him, he’s had enough. The characteristic monotone of the narrator heard at the beginning returns to announce the sad fact of the hero’s subsequent arrest and execution, as he’s seen to disappear into the crowd on a Paris sidewalk.

Sautet’s perfect setups spring readily into Belmondo’s athleticism as the volunteer, or downplay the Riviera from Ventura’s point of view as the father. Belmondo and Sandra Milo kiss on an elevator that drops into frame, they exit past a jocular man waiting to get on and a small boy pulled by a large dog on the slippery tiles of the corridor, a very expressive shot (typically) not lacking in anything but pretentiousness.


Les Choses de la vie

A gag from Hitchcock (“Breakdown”, Alfred Hitchcock Presents) heroically mounted as a variant to rival the master.

A man who resolves to leave his wife and family for love has a terrible accident.

Prix Louis Delluc.

Roger Greenspun of the New York Times, “moderately sophisticated... women’s magazine fiction... not especially well directed...” Variety, “engrossing tang... fine directorial flair”. Tom Milne (Time Out), “a film about banality”. Film Society of Lincoln Center, “stylish romantic melodrama”. Halliwell’s Film Guide, “in the best French manner.”

L’amour, c’est la mort. The strange woman is indicated, “for a whore is a deep ditch.”

Greenspun considered The Things of Life “sounds so much more special in French.” Picasso’s Hommage à René Char is plainly seen.