Any Number Can Win/B+,D-

Image/1962/103m/ANA 2.35/BW

     There's no indication of aspect ratio on the DVD package, so when I started the projector in 4:3 and immediately realized this was a widescreen anamorphic transfer, I was jubilant. The celebratory mood was short-lived. What a shame! Such an elegant film production has been trashed in transfer to DVD. It seems hard to believe that the existing elements for Any Number Can Win have such consistently soft focus, but that's exactly the problem that makes the DVD close to unwatchable. Fortunately, the film is so riveting, that despite the transfer travesty, it is still an entrancing experience. 

Charles and Francis survey the casino. ©MGM

     On his release from prison, Charles arrives home to find Paris changed. The home he left nestled in the trees and shrubs of the suburbs is now lost in a jungle of nondescript apartment towers. His wife waits for him faithfully and dreams of a peaceful retirement together. Charles realizes their nest egg is not enough to give them freedom in the style he wants. One last job will set them up with enough to live out their lives in style. The target is the big casino in Cannes.
     When Charles finds that partner for the caper is no longer available, he recruits a young, former cell mate to pull off the heist. Francis, handsome and footloose,  gets his innocent brother-in-law to act as the chauffer.  The contrasts in characters is fascinating, from Francis's amorality to Charles' practicality and Louis's loyalty.
     The job is as simple and direct as Charles. In order to gain entry into the casino's vaults, Francis must use his good looks to seduce his way behind the hotel stage. That's a lot of the fun of Any Number Can Win. Francis, the street smart twenty-seven-year -old kid, is seduced by playing at the lifestyle of a rich guy in Cannes, just as the viewer is seduced by the elegant locales. There are some excellent surprises and detours before the heist.
     Jean Gabin is solid and no-nonsense as Charles. He knows what he wants and he moves toward his goal with the assurance of a veteran . The rough, tough Gabin and the cat-like Alain Delon provide Any Number Can Win with a perfect pair of stars. The seductive production works on many levels. It captures Cannes glamour in elegant strokes, with widescreen compositions unfolding the lavish setting without feeling like a travelogue. 
     The heist is a beauty of simplicity. Tension mounts in reasonable fashion, the players sweat real sweat. Director Henri Verneuil has a great sense of timing and his cutting makes sense all the time. 
     Aside from the mangled focus, Any Number Can Win is provided with a removable yellow English subtitle translation that accurately captures the French idiom. Black and white contrast is adequate, but a little more punch would have added to the glamour of the French Riviera setting. The mono sound is clean and the music without distortion.


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