A Man Escaped
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With the simplest of concepts and sparest of techniques, Robert Bresson (Au hasard Balthazar) made one of the most suspenseful jailbreak films of all time in A Man Escaped. Based on the memoirs of an imprisoned French resistance leader, this unbelievably taut and methodical marvel follows the fictional Fontaine’s single-minded pursuit of freedom, detailing the planning and carrying out of his escape with gripping precision. But Bresson’s film is not merely process-minded—it’s a work of intense spirituality and humanity.
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The performances are very strong (Bresson was still aiming for naturalistic performances at this time) and the Christian allegory - that we want redemption but instinctively back away from it - is not overstrained: although this time round I noticed a few more references to religion than I recalled, it's there if you want to see it but never at the cost of turning the movie into a sermon.
The film has gone through various video, DVD and Blu-ray incarnations. New Yorker's source material for their deleted NTSC DVD is not especially good, but considering how bad most 35mm prints that go round the revival circuit are, it may well be a case of making the best of what material was available to them. Artificial Eye's UK Region 2 PAL DVD is a distinct improvement on New Yorker's version. Although it doesn't have the unsubtitled trailer included on the US release, it does have a good 54-minute Dutch documentary, The Road to Bresson, and superior picture quality. The French Blu-ray from Gaumont is very impressive, though the extras are unsubtitled - something rectified by Criterion's excellent edition on DVD and Region A-locked Blu-ray tha includes the trailer (subtitled this time), The Road to Bresson documentary, and documentary The Essence of Forms, episode of Cineastes du Notre Temps - Bresson Without a Trace, offering Bresson's fist on-camera interview, visual essay Functions of Film Sound and booklet.