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.
on January 12, 2001
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.
on December 28, 2005
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.
on March 2, 1999
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".
on March 11, 2000
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.
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.
"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.
"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".
"A Man Escaped - The Criterion Collection #650" comes with an 20-page booklet with the following essay "Quintessential Bresson" by Tony Pipolo.
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!
on April 10, 2016
A prison escape film that is pure Bresson. Spare, deliberately paced, avoiding all the usual tricks of the cinema to heighten suspense (music, flashy editing), yet it feels so real and honest in it’s understated way, that the tension at times can be almost unbearable.
A captured French resistance fighter in WW II awaits execution at the hands of the Nazi’s afraid, confused (this is no Hollywood hero, but a real human) he nevertheless contrives to find a way to escape before he is put to death. We watch him plan and prepare, slowly, methodically, as one would have to do, and yet with a ticking clock always bringing him closer to doom.
Beautifully and simply shot, with strong performances (Bresson’s penchant for nonprofessional actors meant that on occasion his work can be hindered by a weak performance, but that’s not the case here). More accessible than some of Bresson’s work for being less metaphorical, this might be a good place to start for someone interested in first sampling the work of this great French film-maker. I look forward to seeing it again.
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+
"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.
on December 20, 2013
Based on a true story of a French resistance captain imprisoned by the Nazis in WW2, the use of close-up shots and, indeed, black and white film, make the whole story feel tense and claustrophobic. You can feel time running out for the prisoner and empathise with his fears and the need to take higher and higher risks in order to make a break. This is not a family movie, rather one to be coveted and watched every few years as a real collector's treat.