A Movie Log

A blog formerly known as Bookishness

By Charles Matthews

Sunday, March 27, 2016

A Man Escaped (Robert Bresson, 1956) revisited

François Leterrier in A Man Escaped 
"I don't laugh," Fontaine (François Leterrier) says. No, he doesn't. In fact, throughout A Man Escaped, Leterrier's expression rarely changes. But we always know the determination, the doubt, the calculation, the suspicion that's going through his head, thanks to Leterrier's use of his eyes. But as Eisenstein taught us so long ago, montage is responsible for so much of what we feel and witness in movies, and we have to credit Raymond Lamy's editing as well as Léonce-Henri Burel's cinematography and of course Robert Bresson's direction for making A Man Escaped one of the most powerful excursions into a man's soul ever put on film. The word "minimalism" was not so much in use when A Man Escaped was made as it is today, but if ever a film was minimalist in its sparing of conventional movie tricks like background music or flashy camerawork, it's this one. When I first blogged about this film, I was watching it in the context of other films by Bresson and was struck by how the director avoided all the clichés we associate with prison-break movies. This time, seeing it on its own, I can only think of how well Bresson's restraint as a filmmaker serves to keep us in Fontaine's head, blotting out all but his grim determination to escape. One sequence that especially grabbed me on this viewing was Fontaine's murder of the prison guard. We don't see it. We barely even hear it. We are watching a blank wall when it happens. But we hold our breaths while it does.

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