Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.5.
France/Italy, 1960. Mondex Films, Les Films Odéon, Filmsonor, Zebra Films. Adaptation by Claude Sautet, Jose Giovanni, Pascal Jardin, dialogue by Jose Giovanni, based on the novel by Jose Giovanni. Cinematography by Ghislain Cloquet. Produced by Jean Darvey. Music by Georges Delerue. Production Design by Rino Mondellini. Film Editing by Albert Jurgenson.
Give a gangster movie to Claude Sautet and he finds the middle ground between crime fiction and Balzac-level heartbreak. Lino Ventura and a criminal partner commit some petty thievery that they assume will be a big score but turns out to be small potatoes. The two of them, along with Ventura’s wife and children, leave Milan and go into hiding in France, but it is not long before unfortunate circumstances see our protagonist alone with the kids, trying to get by while also trying to survive the bosses that may have set him up for trouble. The trustworthy sidekick (Jean-Paul Belmondo, just pre-Breathless fame) who drove him across the country turns out to be a good companion in his fight for survival, while beautiful Sandra Milo brings some beauty to the proceedings as a stage actress who ends up along for the ride. One brilliant sequence after another makes for an incredibly smooth ride, but rarely do the New Wave films that were inspired by American B-movies ever have this much pathos: Ventura literally stops to have the odd existential crisis between violent acts, and the story with his children hits deep chords that are far from emotional manipulation. If you love Melville’s Le Samourai, you must see this one too.
The Criterion Collection: #434