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4.7 out of 5 stars
A Man Escaped (Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]
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50 of 52 people found the following review helpful
Format: DVD
This is the first Bresson film I ever saw and it stunned me. Since then, I have seen most of his other films and each one is remarkable, though a few stand out: Diary of a Country Priest, Au Hazard Balthaaar, Pickpocket, L'Argent. Still, this film is unique in that it retains the austere, minimalist and ultimately spiritual style of the others, and at the same time is a gripping thriller.

You might say of this film -- though Bressonian purists might hate me for saying this -- that Bresson uses his anti-Hollywood style to outdo Hollywood style. What I mean is: Bresson is known for revealing only what is absolutely essential, a gesture, an item, two hands engaged in an activity, feet walking. This has the effect of encouraging the viewer to pay attention, but also, because it forces no specific interpretation upon these items, encouraging the viewer to participate in the unfolding of events, and become more than merely a spectator. Hollywood style tends also to eliminate much of what is inessential, but to a much different end: to eliminate moments where the viewer might be distracted and think about something other than the film; the aim is to replace thought with the action on the screen, rather than to stimulate thought. In the case of this film, however, where the subject matter is a prison breakout (standard Hollywood fare) the minimalist style employed by Bresson is able to achieve both a high degree of tension, and a high level of involvement. From the moment the prisoner is in the prison, nothing is shown except what is relevant to the single-minded focus of the prisoner: to escape. In that sense, it is not at the end that the man escapes (as already announced in the title of the film), but from the very beginning he is escaped in the sense that he never accepts the status of imprisonment. The film is able to show this without ever having him discuss the matter with anyone. Remarkable.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on January 13, 2001
Format: VHS Tape
One of the finest films I've ever seen, painted with a spare but rich brush this is truly a masterpiece. The subtitle of this film is "Where the wind listeth" taken from the biblical passage concerning a man being born again. This seems to get lost in some reviews of this gem, but I think it is its underlying theme, redemption and grace.
I've never seen a film that truly kept me so involved and on the edge of my chair. Bresson lets this story tell itself from the beginning as you watch the main character's hands and feel his hesitation and his desperation. A man so fully human and yet touched and guided by an amazing grace that takes him step by step and leaves him free in the truest sense of the word.
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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on December 29, 2005
Format: DVD
This is one of cinema's great achievements, a testament of the combination of elements (subject, visual style, photographic image, movement, sound, background music, character, montage) are perfectly blended into a unique experience. The New Yorker print, however, is the worst copy of this film (16mm, 35mm, television screenings) I have ever seen. This was a copy with a lack of contrast, extra noise on the track, looking like a dub. If only there was a decent attempt to attain anything better would have begun to do the film justice. As it is, enjoy what you're stuck with but know there's something better out there.

Burt Shapiro
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on March 2, 1999
Format: VHS Tape
Robert Bressons unique way of using sound in this film, helps making it one of the most suspenseful films I've ever seen. I can recommend it to anyone who wants something more than "just another film".
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on March 12, 2000
Format: VHS Tape
What is the lesson from this film? Was it just the true story about how "a man escaped" from a Nazi prison? No, it is a film about human endurance in the face of great adversity.It shows how one man's determination can surmount seemingly impossible odds. Bresson depicts this in a minimalistic manner that uses small events to heighten the dramatic tension. As all of his movies, this one will linger, long after seeing it, in your memory.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Format: VHS Tape
(...)
(...)
It seems strange to me that Robert Bresson referred to himself as a "Christian atheist", because God is very much present in this film. A
Man Escaped is based on the true story of André Devigny, a member of the French Resistance who managed to break out of prison just
hours before he was to be executed by the Germans. The movie begins with the prisoner, here called Fontaine, being driven to jail. The
men beside him are cuffed, but he is not. He tries to get away when the car stops but is recaptured and beaten about the head.
In prison, Fontaine nearly succumbs to despair, fearful that his fellow Resistance fighters will be rounded up too, but then a stranger
intervenes, a prisoner exercising in the courtyard who promises to get a note to them. Relieved of this concern, Fontaine once again sets
his mind to escape. While other men remain bound either physically or mentally, Fontaine develops a detailed plan of escape and
arduously sets about implementing it.
Bresson presents Fontaine's machinations in painstaking detail. He also confines most of the film to Fontaine's cell, so the viewer too
feels like a captive. Seemingly forgotten by the Germans, Fontaine delays his escape attempt. He believes that two people will be
required to make the attempt work, but is unable to convince anyone else to join him. He is himself afraid to take the leap of faith that it
requires, seemingly waiting for a sign that he should go ahead. The sign comes quite suddenly in the form of his death sentence, his
crimes not forgotten after all.
But now, just when everything seems to have fallen into place, another prisoner is placed in the cell with Fontaine, a very young man
whom he has every reason to distrust as a stool pigeon, planted at the last minute by the Germans. His execution scheduled for the next
day, Fontaine has but two choices : kill the boy or include him in the escape. Once again Fontaine has thrust upon him a matter of faith.
His resolution to this problem and the ensuing escape are exciting stuff. The very sparseness of the film and the way Bresson strips it of
emotion, makes the action, as he intended, speak for itself, and it speaks volumes. But there are also big ideas at work here, the most
refreshing of which, particularly coming from a Frenchman in the 1950s, is that faith and hope matter and that we can take some control
of events through our own actions. The most famous image of the French intellectuals' view of life is the example of Sisyphus, as per
Albert Camus. Sisyphus, a Titan sentenced to eternal punishment for rebelling against the Gods, has to push a boulder up a hill all day,
and at the end of the day, just as he arrives at the top, it rolls back down again. Bresson's film is perhaps best understood as a refutation
of this fatalistic and futile worldview; A Man Escaped suggests that indeed we can escape the fates, can create our own destinies, if only
we have faith and make the effort. The impetus remains with us, even if the ultimate outcome remains in the hands of "The Spirit".
GRADE : A+
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Format: Blu-ray
Robert Bresson, a legendary French filmmaker known for cinematic maserpieces such as "Pickpocket", "Diary of a Country Priest" and his most popular film "Au Hasard Balthazar".

But Bresson was also known for his film "A Man Escaped" ("Un condamné à mort s'est échappé ou Le vent souffle où il veut"), which was based on the memoirs of Andre Devigny, a prisoner of war that was held at Fort Montluc by the Nazi's during World War II and escaped on his day of execution.

The film would earn Bresson a "Best Director" award at the 1957 Cannes Film Festival but also a Palme d'Or nomination.

VIDEO:

"A Man Escaped" is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:33:1 aspect ratio). The film features wonderful contrast and is well-detailed. Whites and grays are well-contrast, black levels are also much better. I saw no damage or major flickering, banding, if anything, the film looks magnificent on Blu-ray!

According to the Criterion Collection, this high-definition digital transfer was created in 2K resolution on an ARRISCAN film scanner from the original 35 mm camera negative at Eclaire Laboratories in Epinay-sur-Seine, France. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, warps and flicker were manually removed using MTI's DRS and Pixel Farm's PFClean, while Image System's Phoenix was used for small dirt, grain and noise reduction.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

"A Man Escaped" is presented in French LPCM 1.0. Dialogue is clear and subtitles are easy to read. I detected no pops, crackles or terrible hiss during my viewing of the film.

According to the Criterion Collection, the original monaural soundtrack was remaster at 24-bit from a sound negative. Clicks, thumps, hiss and hum were manually removed using Pro Tools HD. Crackle was attenuated using AudioCube's integrated workstation.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

"A Man Escaped - The Criterion Collection #650" comes with the following special features:

Bresson Without a Trace - (1:07:31) From a 1965 television program of "Cineastes de notre temps" in which the Bresson gives his first on-camera interview. (Note: Do not watch this unless you have seen his previous films as the featurette does contain spoilers.)
The Road to Bresson - (56:22) A 1984 documentary featuring interviews with filmmakers Louis Malle, Paul schrader and Andrei Tarkovsky. Featuring the filmmakers who also try to get an interview with Bresson who is promoting his film "L'Argent" at the Cannes Film Festival.
The Essence of Forms - (45:56) A Documentary from 2010 win which collaborators and admirers of Bresson's including actor Francois Leterrier and director Buruno Dumont, share their thoughts about the director and his work.
Functions of Film Sound - (19:48) A visual essay on the use of sound in "A Man Escaped" by film scholars David Bordwell and Kristin Thompson.
Trailers - (3:10) The theatrical trailer for "A Man Escaped".

EXTRAS:

"A Man Escaped - The Criterion Collection #650" comes with an 20-page booklet with the following essay "Quintessential Bresson" by Tony Pipolo.

JUDGMENT CALL:

Robert Bresson, a legendary filmmaker who may have not made too many films within the last 40-years of his life, but each of his films are respected by filmmakers because of his constant search of getting the shot he needs.

A style that is not for patient producers, Bresson is known to have a seen redone and shot many dozens of times until he felt he got the shot he needed. As many filmmakers would say about Bresson's style, he comes to a shot not knowing what he wants, but through repetition he eventually is in search for a shot that can be used.

He was a man that was dedicated in refining the precision of his own cinema style, stayed away from professional actors, abolishing psychology and suffice to say, those who understood his work, looked at Robert Bresson as a genius, while those who didn't, find his work maddening or incomprehensible.

While Bresson's style is not a style that not many people could read about or hear about, it is because he shunned the public life and wanted to be known for his work and not about him, as a person.

Known for his masterpiece "Au hasard Balthazar" and his work for"Les dames du bois de Boulogne", "Diary of a Country Priest", "Pickpocket" and"Mouchette", the Criterion Collection gives viewers a chance to know Robert Bresson the filmmaker through the Blu-ray release of "A Man Escaped".

While I recommend films such as "Au hasard Balthazar", "Pickpocket" and "Diary of a Country Priest" to see the varying styles of Robert Bresson as a filmmaker, I must say that the release of "A Man Escaped" is important for the fact that it's a film that shows his technique of simple concepts but techniques that are not easily replicated.

This is also a release that features Bressons' first on-camera interview in "Bresson: Without a Trace" from 1965, the wonderful documentary "The Road to Bresson" in which legendary filmmakers such as Louis Malle, Andrei Tarkovsky, Paul Schrader and others discuss the brilliance of Bresson but also seeing those who just don't get his work (as seen in the "L'argent"press conference at the Cannes Film Festival).

But Criterion Collection goes even further by including "The Essence of Forms" featuring those who have collaborated with Robert Bresson but also "Functions of Film Sound" in which film scholars David Bordwell and Kristin Thompson discuss Bresson's work and the use of sound in "A Man Escaped" with efficacy.

But for his film "A Man Escaped", description on paper or this review makes everything seem so simple. In fact, that is a word that is often used with Robert Bresson's films is "simple", but yet not easily replicated. Remember, Bresson is a filmmaker who will keep filming do-overs as many times as he wants to get the right shot. His films have gone over schedule, gone over budget and he has even bankrupt a few producers because he has a style that requires patience.

For this prison film, a French Resistance leader has been imprisoned by the Nazi's and as life is futile for those incarcerated and just counting the days when they will be executed, the protagonist Fontaine is using his contacts throughout prison to find out details of what he can do to escape. Using anything that he has access to, may it be a spoon, blankets or shreddings to be used for rope, the film is exciting because you want to see this man escape. We know it's based on a true story based on the memoir of Andre Devigny, but we must see things visually to fully understand.

Bresson captures Fontaine's urgency, his sadness, his fears and displays it on camera. Bresson's skill as a filmmaker is not to be obtrusive but also having the audience be part of the film through tension, suspense and emotion, not just visually but also through its carefully planned use of audio.

This is fantastic cinema and in his talented list within his oeuvre, while he has many films that can be labeled as a masterpiece, "A Man Escape" is wonderful, but it's the overall experience through this Blu-ray release that makes it worthwhile for the cineaste.

The Criterion Collection's presentation on Blu-ray is fantastic. Wonderful detail and contrast with picture and audio quality that looks unblemished and for a film that is nearly 60-years-old, fantastic. But of all the Robert Bresson releases from the Criterion Collection, it is this release that gives Bresson fans a chance to truly know the filmmaker.

Overall, "A Man Escaped" is a film that showcases Robert Bresson's wonderful direction but it's also a Blu-ray release and its special features that Robert Bresson fans and cineaste will surely enjoy for it. These are the type of Criterion Collection releases I love...great film and special features that thoroughly examines the work of the filmmaker. "A Man Escaped" is highly recommended!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format: DVD
I first saw "A Man Escaped" in my Introduction to Cinema Studies course during my freshman year at college. It immediately became one of the greatest films I had ever seen. Over time, my feeling on it has evolved to the point that it is now one of my favorite films as well. The story is told in a sparse, visually narrow style that forces the viewer to imagine as well as simply watch. The prison is never seen as a whole; we are only shown pieces of it--a wall, a doorway, and so on. The German prison guards are more often only heard as footsteps coming to Fontaine's cell door. Rarely do we venture outside of Fontaine's cell once he is imprisoned, and when we do, it is usually to the same place, where he washes himself with the other prisoners. With the exception of the end, the plot of the movie revolves entirely around Fontaine's plan and exeuction of an escape. The magic of the film is that Bresson makes these minutiae indescribably watchable; we are invested in Fontaine's every action through the whole of the film, and we watch with anticipation as he grows closer to his goal with each passing month, day, minute. "A Man Escaped" is a beautifully rendered work of cinema, and it will appeal to everyone who wishes to do more than while away the time seeing a simple 'movie'.

As to the New Yorker DVD listed here, I'm afraid it is severly lacking in quality. The print used is dirty and dark, and the transfer itself suffers from a poor PAL to NTSC conversion that results in 'combing' and 'ghosting' (For those not technically inclined, this basically means that the film runs faster than an American film, but the difference in speed was not properly accounted for, causing a sort of blurriness in some scenes). There are also no special features, save for a few trailers for other Bresson films. As of the date of this review, the New Yorker disc is $26.99, and in my opinion that is simply too much to pay for a DVD that is this mediocre.

My suggestion is this:

A company in the UK called Artificial Eye has just released a new DVD of "A Man Escaped" this April. The picture quality is greatly improved and, because the UK uses the same PAL encoding system, there was no need for a conversion, which eliminates the combing and interlacing problems found on the New Yorker disc. Besides that, there is also a wonderful Dutch documentary (with English subtitles) called "The Road to Bresson" which is almost an hour long and features interviews with Andrei Tarkovsky, Louis Malle, and Paul Schrader amongst others. There is also footage of the notoriously camera-shy director accepting his award for Best Director (for "L'Argent") at the 1983 Cannes film festival. Finally, the documentary includes a delightful surprise at the end which I will not ruin here. On Amazon.co.uk the AE DVD is priced at £11.98, which is actually cheaper than the New Yorker with the current conversion rate. The disc is coded for Region 2 in the UK, so it will not work on a TV or DVD player in the USA unless both the TV and DVD player have multi-region capability and you have a PAL to NTSC converter box. However, the disc can be viewed on any PC by using any of a series of free media players widely available on the internet that circumvent region coding.

In short, if you value this film as much as I do, and want some value for your money, then skip this disappointment from New Yorker and pick up the Artificial Eye release instead.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on September 1, 2006
Format: VHS Tape
French director Robert Bresson who also wrote the screenplay, based on the wartime memoirs of Andre Devigny, fashioned an enthralling, nervewracking recounting of an elaborate prison break during the height of WWII.

Francois Leterrier playing Lt. Fontaine is captured by the Nazis in 1943 Lyons for sabotage of a bridge. After being beaten severely by the Gestapo, he's thrown into prison to await his fate. While being incarcerated within a claustrophobic cell he conjures up a plan to escape. He begins by taking apart the door to his cell gaining him access to the corridors of the prison. He constructs ropes and hooks with the meagre contents of his tiny abode.

With his plan finally complete after many painstaking months of preparation, he is summoned for his final judgement. Given a death sentence he must act immediately, when he suddenly gets a cellmate, a young Frenchman who he must either bring along or kill.

Bresson adroitly creates an aura of solitude and severe unease with a minimum of dialogue in this underappreciated flick. He expertly conveys the desperation of Lt. Fontaine as his very existence hangs in the balance.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Format: DVD
"A Man Escaped," (1956). This is a classic of French cinema, a dramatic war story of just 100 minutes. In it, French director Robert Bresson - using a deceptively successful minimalist approach -- brings high drama to the screen. Bresson (Au Hasard Balthazar (The Criterion Collection),Diary of a Country Priest (The Criterion Collection)) is able to tell this true story of Andre Devigny, a French prisoner, and his single-minded determination to escape from a Nazi prison cell in occupied France during World War II, with great economy. To tell his tale of the Resistance, Bresson, who was awarded Best Director at the Cannes Film Festival for the film, used amateur actors and little dialogue or music, while keeping his camera almost constantly focused on the prisoner's desperate bid for freedom. The director does use snatches of Mozart's Great Mass in C Minor, No.16 (K.427) -, the Kyrie, in a few scenes at the picture's beginning.

To ratchet up the suspense, on the same day that Devigny is condemned to death, he is given a new young cellmate. Must he kill the young man? Or, as he believes the escape will be easier done by two than by one, should the Resistance leader risk revealing his plans to someone who may be a Gestapo informer?

Bresson, who insisted on as much authenticity as he could get, based his screenplay on a memoir by Devigny. The former prisoner also served as advisor on the film, which was shot in the same Montluc prison in which Devigny had been held, in the vicinity of Lyon, where both Resistance and Gestapo were extremely active during the Occupation. Devigny even loaned Bresson, who had himself been a prisoner of war during WWII, the ropes and hooks he had used in his escape.

In reading about this movie, I expected to dislike it. Black and white, amateur actors, not even any music, virtually the entire picture filmed in a jailhouse. And then there's the title: if you know the prisoner escaped, how suspenseful can the film be? It was tremendously suspenseful, could barely tear my eyes away from it. Tremendously exciting. I'm sure that in film schools all over the globe, students are dissecting this motion picture, trying to figure out how it works. This, I am not qualified to do. All I can say is, I recently saw a Batman movie, with its computer generated effects. A MAN ESCAPED was more exciting.
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