(aka 'Asfalto che scotta' or 'The Big Risk')
France / Italy 1960
After hiding out in Milan for nearly a decade, fugitive gangland chief Abel Davos (Lino Ventura) sneaks back to Paris with his children despite a death sentence hanging over his head. Accompanied by appointed guardian Eric Stark (Jean-Paul Belmondo, fresh off his star turn in 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.
In a thriller at once ruthless
and soulful, Sautet paid attention to men who shot to kill — men to whom loyalty
and friendship mattered, along with guns and cash — but also tousled the heads
of kids, treated women with respect, and savored the pleasures of sandwiches and
beer. Abel Davos (onetime wrestler Lino Ventura) is a tough guy — and a warm
husband and father to two sons — who, after a decade on the lam in Milan, wants
to get his family home to Paris. Eric Stark (Belmondo) is the freelance thief
who helps him after a daring heist goes wrong and former associates of Davos
turn on him.
Theatrical Release: April 1st, 1960
DVD Review: Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC
|DVD Box Cover||
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|Distribution||Criterion Collection - Spine # 434 - Region 1 - NTSC|
Average Bitrate: 7.38 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s
NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.
|Audio||French (Dolby Digital mono)|
from Claude Sautet ou la magie invisible, a 2003 documentary on
the director by writers N. T. Binh and Dominique Rabourdin
The black and white image on Criterion's dual-layered, progressive and anamorphic DVD (in the original aspect ratio of 1.66:1) looks marvelous. Contrast, Criterion's hallmark, is above reproach. The image has strong detail and is one of the better black and white SD images I've seen this year. Noise exists but is minimal and I see no untoward manipulations. It's hard to believe this film is 48 years old. No complaints about how this DVD looks. There are optional English subtitles (see sample below) supporting the clear but unremarkable French mono audio.
Supplements exclude a commentary but there is some excerpts from a 2003 documentary on director Sautet by writers N. T. Binh and Dominique Rabourdin entitled Claude Sautet ou la magie invisible. It is quite good in supplying information from many on a filmmaker that I felt I didn't know enough about. It is only eight minutes long and I actually wish it was much longer. There is an 11 minute 2002 interview with Classe tous risques novelist and screenwriter Josť Giovanni in which he details some of his life experience including a stint in jail (on 'Death Row' no less). He reminisces about working with Sautet. Good stuff! We are given about 14 minutes worth of archival interview footage featuring actor Lino Ventura discussing his career. I found it moderately interesting. There are two trailers running over 6 minutes in total and a liner notes booklet with new essays by director Bertrand Tavernier and Binh, a reprinted interview with Sautet, and a 1962 tribute by Jean-Pierre Melville.
I don't know if this would be considered Noir by many but it did have some of the markers and I observed a lot of 'Melville' in it. I enjoyed the sparse use of music to accentuate the 'thriller' aspects and overall this is simply pure and immensely entertaining crime-drama cinema. How I wish there was so much more like this available... it transports me to such a pleasurable viewing experience. Recommended - you bet!