On the face of it, this crime saga, Claude Sautet’s 1960 directorial debut that’s re-released this season, seems worlds away from the elegant chamber dramas (‘Un Coeur en Hiver’, ‘Nelly et Monsieur Arnaud’) that later made his reputation outside France. When fugitive gangster Abel (Lino Ventura) decides to return from exile to Paris under the police radar, he discovers who his friends really are. This is the world of Jean-Pierre Melville – of professional honour and tested loyalty. Sautet is fascinated by the everyday humanity of his outsiders – offsetting the chases with scenes of family life under pressure. It’s intriguing juxtapose, and it’s surprising that the film has remained little-known, in spite of a charismatic gangster-with-heart turn from young Jean-Paul Belmondo. That said, Sautet’s characteristic restraint lacks the killer snap of Melville at his best, and the impetus rather flags as events proceed. A welcome showcase for the BFI’s upcoming Sautet retro then, but just a notch short of classic status.