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(aka 'Asfalto che scotta' or 'The Big Risk')

Directed by Claude Sautet
France / Italy 1960

 

Highly rated by Jean-Pierre Melville, Robert Bresson and Bertrand Tavernier, and described as the greatest of all French gangster movies by the Guardian, Classe tous risques is an astonishing crime film that was the dazzling directorial debut of the influential Claude Sautet (1924-2000), better known for his later films Un Coeur en Hiver (1992) and Nelly et Monsieur Arnaud (1995)

Starring the great Italian-born character actor Lino Ventura as a once-powerful Parisian gangster who has grown weary of his exile in Italy and longs to return home to his wife and two small children in Paris. In order to finance this ambition he decides to pull one last job - boldly executed in broad daylight on the streets of Milan. His getaway proves dangerous but when he enlists the help of his old partners-in-crime, they are reluctant to risk their own safety and instead send a complete stranger - the fresh-faced Eric Stark (Jean-Paul Belmondo) - to escort their former comrade to Paris.

***

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.

It's a toss-up as to which is more spectacular — the taut, unsentimental chase that opens the picture after Davos and a partner in crime mug guards who are transferring payroll cash, or the underplayed, equally unsentimental bond that develops between Davos and Stark. Sandra Milo, from Fellini's 8 1/2, makes a luscious entr'acte as Stark's love interest, but it's the elemental male relationships that inspire Sautet's greatest moments in a great specimen of recovered cinema treasure.

Excerpt from Entertainment Weekly located HERE

Posters

Theatrical Release: April 1st, 1960

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Comparison:

Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC vs. BFI - Region 'B' - Blu-ray

Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC LEFT vs. BFI - Region 'B' - Blu-ray RIGHT

Box Covers

Distribution Criterion Collection - Spine # 434 - Region 1 - NTSC

BFI

Region ''B' - Blu-ray

Runtime 1:48:32  1:48:08.000  
Video 1.66:1 Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 7.38 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s 
1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 39,886,585,956 bytes

Feature: 31,689,099,264 bytes

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

Total Video Bitrate: 34.99 Mbps

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate:

Bitrate:  Blu-ray

Audio French (Dolby Digital mono)  LPCM Audio French 2304 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 2304 kbps / 24-bit
Subtitles English, None English, None
Features

Release Information:
Studio: Criterion

Aspect Ratio:
Original Aspect Ratio 1.66:1

Edition Details:

• Excerpts from Claude Sautet ou la magie invisible, a 2003 documentary on the director by writers N. T. Binh and Dominique Rabourdin
• Interview with Classe tous risques novelist and screenwriter Jos� Giovanni
• Archival interview footage featuring actor Lino Ventura discussing his career
• Original French and U.S. release trailers
• 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

DVD Release Date: June 17th, 200
8
Keep Case
Chapters: 29

Release Information:
Studio:
BFI

Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1

1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 39,886,585,956 bytes

Feature: 31,689,099,264 bytes

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

Total Video Bitrate: 34.99 Mbps

 

Edition Details:
• Monsieur Ventura (35:41)

• French Trailer (3;49)

• US trailer (1:59)


Blu-ray Release Date:
February 24th, 2014
Standard Blu-ray Case

Chapters 15

 

Comments:

NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

ADDITION: BFI - Region 'B' - Blu-ray - February 2014': The BFi sports a beautiful dual-layered 1080P transfer with a max'ed out bitrate. The Criterion SD appears much flatter (and duller) beside the UK Blu-ray captures. Contrast, detail and notable depth all seem to be enhanced in the HD which gains a sliver of information on the four edges of the 1.66:1 frame. I was impressed. There is no noise or artefacts of any kind and we get hints of textured grain. Really this looks wonderful!

BFI opt for a linear PCM 2.0 channel at a reasonable 2304 kbps in the original French. It has some nice touches of depth from the action. Georges Delerue (Jules and Jim, The Woman Next Door, The Last Metro, Day For Night) did the score and it behaves like a Noir gem creating atmosphere out of subtle music. There are English subtitles (removable although via the remote - not the menu) and my Oppo has determined it to be Region 'B'-locked.

Extras include an excellent bio-piece entitled Monsieur Ventura - who rules this film with his presence. It has input from many and and runs about 35-minutes. I enjoyed it and learning about his life outside of cinema. There is also a, lengthier, French trailer and a US one. I only have the screener disc but would bet on some liner notes.

Great release - I really loved this film - more so - in the higher resolution. What another classic French crime drama. This could easily pass for Noir as it had many 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 'black cinema'. How I wish there was so much more like this available... it gave me such a pleasurable viewing experience. The BFI Blu-ray is a treat - strongly recommended!

***

ON THE DVD: 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. 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.  

Gary W. Tooze

 


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Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC TOP vs. BFI - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 


 

Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC TOP vs. BFI - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC TOP vs. BFI - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC TOP vs. BFI - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC TOP vs. BFI - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC TOP vs. BFI - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM
 

Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC TOP vs. BFI - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM
 

 

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Box Cover

Distribution Criterion Collection - Spine # 434 - Region 1 - NTSC

BFI

Region ''B' - Blu-ray




 

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