Friday, 18 July 2014

JULY 18, 2014

UN CONDAMNE A MORT S'EST ESCHAPPE/ A  Man Escaped **** (1956) Directed by Robert Bresson.

I have to admit that I've never really fallen under the spell of Robert Bresson. I certainly don't dismiss his talent as many knowledgeable people take him very seriously (perhaps not as seriously as Bresson takes himself), including Louis Malle and Paul Schrader. I have enjoyed both LES DAMES DU BOIS DE BOULOGNE (from a Cocteau script) and PICKPOCKET, both of which are in my collection, but his later films have never held much of an attraction despite their high ratings. Having said that, I must say I loved A MAN ESCAPED and watched it twice within twenty-four hours.  The plot (based on a true story) tells of a resistance operative imprisoned by the nazis in Lyon in 1943 and the film meticulously depicts his efforts to escape - made even more urgent when he is condemned to death.  I found the whole film very suspenseful and the tension is in no way diminished buy knowing the outcome - it's not so much "will he do it" as "how will he do it."  Bresson's style is minimalist and any acts of violence take place off screen. Francois Letterier conveys a whole world of emotion with very little expression (watch his eyes) although he was not a professional actor, only making one more film, Alain Resnais' STAVISKY, although he went on to have a successful career as a screenwriter. On my first viewing I couldn't understand why he looked so familiar until I realised he bore a striking resemblance to a young Alan Alda. I'm sure that somewhere this film is called an existential classic. I wouldn't argue with that assessment but I'll settle for nail biting thriller.

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