Seduction by ellipsis

Claude Sautet’s Classe Tous Risques is an odd little growing pain of a film. It is fascinating to watch the way that the cinematography and story negotiate (sometimes clumsily) between the stolid camera of 1950s French cinéma de qualité and the energetic errors and innovations of the New Wave.

Lino Ventura as an anguished head gangster cum family man and his tragic end is one half of this schizophrenic story–the poetic realism half, gloomy and moralistic and softly beautiful. The other half is Jean-Paul Belmondo as a free agent thief, guileless and unperturbed, with an excellent left uppercut to keep him out of trouble.

The film was in theaters at the same time as Breathless, and was of course immediately drowned out by the attention given to Godard’s feature length debut. I love the idea of doppelgänger Belmondos on the screens of Parisian movie houses–one telling his audience to go screw themselves if they don’t like the countryside, one trying out a heavy-handed pick up line only to shyly add, “…that is, if you’re interested.”

What unites the films is the way that elliptical editing becomes synonymous for a postwar social informality, a social intimacy, a social shorthand. Sequences from Classe Tous Risques in conjunction with one from Breathless will now become my go-to example for the filmic device and its New Wave before, in transition and after.


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