Classe tous risques; one disc; Criterion; $29.95
Claude Sautet's 1960 French gangster noir begins on the streets of Turin with vérité action that looks lifted from an Italian neorealist drama. The gritty naturalism isn't that far from the on-the-fly style of Godard and Truffaut, but Sautet's first feature looked wedded to the past and got swamped by the New Wave. This lean, almost minimalist black-and-white crime story holds up well in this handsome reissue. Blocky Lino Ventura--a George Raft type--plays Abel Davos, a world-weary crime boss on the run. Doomed from the start, he returns to Paris from Italy and tries desperately to reassert himself with his old underworld cronies, who are conspiring to deep six him. Davos harbors no illusion about his own fate; he only wants to find safety for his two children. It's a testament to Sautet's cold-eyed style that this subplot is never sentimentalized. Davos is contrasted with a brash young hood (a very young Jean-Paul Belmondo, whose breakthrough film, Breathless, came out the same year) who is rising as fast as the old gangster is falling. The dialogue (and the brief existentialism-tinged narration) is terse, and as Sautet says in an interview, his kind of "pure cinema" relies more on "the body and facial expression, which have their own eloquence, their own poetry." Classe tous risque was the first film for Sautet, who worked for a decade as an assistant director (on Georges Franju's horror classic Eyes Without a Face most notably). His career, which included some self-imposed "retirements," took a late uptick in the 1990s with his final films, the much-lauded Un coeur en hiver and Nelly & Monsieur Arnaud. This exemplary Criterion package comes with a booklet featuring appreciations of Sautet by fellow directors Bertrand Tavernier and Jean-Pierre Melville, plus lots of interviews with Sautet, Ventura and novelist José Giovanni in the extras.
(Michael S. Gant)
The Nude Bomb; one disc; Universal Studios; $14.99
The old "produce a lackluster DVD to capitalize on an upcoming theatrical release trick"--Maxwell Smart would be proud. In preparation for this summer's updated Get Smart film, Universal has thrown together the original big-screen adventure of the hapless spy. As the title suggests, 1980's The Nude Bomb isn't a deep film. The plot loosely revolves around the evil organization KAOS and its plans to set off a series of explosives that would eradicate all clothing in the world. Unlike parodies such as Scary Movie and Hot Shots! that target specific sources for their comedy, The Nude Bomb skewers the spy genre as a whole so the humor still holds up today--if you think a huddled football team being hit by the nude bomb is funny. After 20 years, Don Adams as Maxwell Smart still elicits laughter, and it's refreshing to watch a parody that doesn't rely on gross-out humor. The biggest problem is the absence of Smart's foil, Agent 99. Ignoring the marriage of the two agents, The Nude Bomb tries to fill Barbara Feldon's heels with Andrea Howard as Agent 22, but in the end she falls flat. Additionally, the original Chief of CONTROL, played by Edward Platt, is replaced by MacGyver's boss, Dana Elcar, but this time with forgivable results. The picture and sound have been cleaned up, but surprisingly there are no special features. Fans of Get Smart or old-school parodies will feel right at home, but for anyone else, The Nude Bomb "missed it by that much."
The Eye; one or two discs; Lionsgate Home Entertainment; $29.95/$34.98
Why cast shimmering-tressed golden girl Jessica Alba for The Eye, an American remake of a popular Pang brothers chiller, if you're going to give her stringy mousy-brown and keep her covered up? Her acting--devoid of the great packaging--is barely adequate to a paranormal tale of a blind violinist who gets cornea transplants (so why isn't it called The Eyes?) and then discovers that she's seeing the terrible visions that befell the orbs' original owner. The shocks are few and far between; how scary is a little kid who's lost his report card, really? Parker Posey is wasted as the hapless sister, and Alesandro Nivola, as the first-skeptical, then-believing doctor, neglects to shave. Eventually, Alba's search for answers takes her to Mexico and a strange subplot about substandard work-safety rules--a covert critique of NAFTA perhaps? The disc comes with lots of minifeatures about the special effects and some mumbo-jumbo about ghosts and the walking dead. The best of these is a behind-the-scenes look at the shadowman, an impossibly skinny actor named Brett A. Haworth who shuffles along in front of a green screen with nothing to wear but spray-on skin-colored briefs. The planning for the big tanker-truck explosion scenes, including a lot of 3-D storyboarding with model cars, is more fascinating than the actual scene. The two-disc edition comes with a digital download for those who want to watch the movie on an MP3 player screen not much bigger than an ... eye.
(Michael S. Gant)
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