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A Man Escaped(1956)
French Resistance activist Andre Devigny is imprisoned by the Nazis, and devotes his waking hours to planning an elaborate escape. Then, on the same day, he is condemned to death, and given a new cellmate. Should he kill him, or risk revealing his plans to someone who may be a Gestapo informer?
For more about A Man Escaped and the A Man Escaped Blu-ray release, see the A Man Escaped Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on February 27, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Starring: François Leterrier, Charles Le Clainche, Maurice Beerblock
Director: Robert Bresson
» See full cast & crew
A Man Escaped Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, February 27, 2013
Winner of Best Director Award at the Cannes Film Festival, Robert Bresson's "Un condamné à mort s'est échappé" a.k.a "A Man Escaped" (1956) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion. The supplemental features on the disc include an original trailer for the film; episode of the French television series Cineastes de notre temps, produced by Andre S. Labarthe; "The Road to Bresson", a documentary film directed by Dutch filmmakers Jurrien Rood and Leo de Boer; "The Essence of Forms", a documentary film by Pierre-Henri Gilbert; and a visual essay read by actor Dan Stewart. The release also arrives with an illustrated booklet featuring an essay by film scholar Tony Pipolo. In French, with optional English subtitles. Region-A "locked".
The man (Francois Leterrier) looks indecisive and weak. As the car slows down, he suddenly opens up the door and runs away. Moments later, he is captured and dragged back into the car. Later on, he is questioned and beaten by Gestapo agents. It is when we realize that he is a French resistance fighter.
In his cell, the man thinks about the end. There is so much that he never had a chance to share with his family and comrades. He is convinced that it is only a matter of time now before the Nazis execute him.
A few days later, however, a fellow prisoner reveals to the man how to send a message to his comrades. Filled with hope, the man begins to plan an escape. It won't be easy, but he knows that it can be done. He just needs time - the more, the better.
The man begins working. Very soon, he manages to take off a large piece of wood from his door, then another one, and then another one. He also makes a rope from his blanket and a hook from a piece of metal. A couple of his new friends already know that he is planning to escape, but none of them believe that he will succeed.
Eventually, the man concludes that he has done everything that needs to be done and gathered all of the tools he would need to climb the prison's walls. Then the Nazis inform him that he will be executed. A couple of days later, the man gets a cellmate - a 16-year-old prisoner named François Jost (Charles Le Clainche), whom the man suspects is a Nazi spy.
Robert Bresson's Un condamné à mort s'est échappé a.k.a A Man Escaped tells the true story of French resistance fighter André Devigny, who was captured and sent to Fort Montluc in Lyon, a notorious Gestapo prison, where thousands of men and women were tortured and executed during WWII. A few days before he was to be executed, Devigny managed to escape from the prison and fled to Switzerland.
The film is dry and methodical. The focus of attention is not so much on the events leading to Devigny's escape but on the atmosphere that surrounds them. As Devigny begins plotting his escape, the tension gradually rises, and eventually becomes unbearable.
The film is completely and convincingly stripped of glamor. Devigny often looks indecisive and terrified, a man who may not have the courage to finish what he has started. Bresson's camera spends a great deal of time studying his face and shaky hands because they reveal perfectly that he is a real human being - hopeful but apprehensive, determined but desperate.
Bresson also uses silence to great effect. The occasional random noises disturb Devigny's methodical work, and the film's rhythm. They are maddening, painful, and, as Devigny often fears, quite possibly signaling the end.
The cast of non-professional actors and limited dialog give A Man Escaped a very distinctive documentary-like feel. Also, the only music heard in the film is a small fragment from Mozart's "Great" Mass in C minor.
Note: In 1957, A Man Escaped won Best Director Award at the Cannes Film Festival.
A Man Escaped Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Robert Bresson's A Man Escaped arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion.
The following text appears inside the booklet provided with this Blu-ray release:
"This new digital transfer was created in 2K resolution on an ARRISCAN film scanner from the original 35mm camera negative at Eclair Laboratories in Epinay-sur-Seine, France. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, warps, jitter, and flicker were manually removed using MTI's DRS and Pixel Farm's PFClean, while Image Systems' Phoenix was used for small dirt, grain, and noise reduction.
Transfer supervisor: Ronald Boullet/Eclair Laboratories, Epinay-sur-Seine, France.
Colorist: Bruno Patin/Eclair Laboratories, Epinay-sur-Seine, France."
There are some obvious similarities between this release and Gaumont's release of A Man Escaped (which we have reviewed here), but the presentations are indeed very different. Generally speaking, on the Criterion release depth and clarity are far more convincing during the first half of the film, where I noticed some issues on the French release. The chroma noise, in particular, has been eliminated, and compression appears to be much better. More importantly, however, the black levels have been stabilized while brightness levels have been slightly toned down. With the improved compression, grain is now far more prominent and evenly distributed. (I have attempted to match two screencaptures that should give you a good idea what type of improvements have been made - compare screencapture #3 with screencapture #7 from our review of the Gaumont release). Furthermore, there are no traces of excessive sharpening corrections. I also did not see edge-flicker or serious transition issues to report in this review. There are no large damage marks, cuts, warps, or debris. This being said, there are a few sequences where light artifacts are occasionally easy to spot. Typically, they would become easy to see where there is plenty of light. (One such example appears right around the 41-minute mark). Overall, however, Criterion's presentation of A Man Escaped is indeed far more convincing. (Note: This is a Region-A "locked" Blu-ray release. Therefore, you must have a native Region-A or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
A Man Escaped Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There is only one standard audio track on this Blu-ray disc: French LPCM 1.0. For the record, Criterion have provided optional English subtitles for the main feature.
A Man Escaped does not have a prominent music score. Unsurprisingly, the lossless track has a limited dynamic amplitude. However, the dialog/narration is exceptionally crisp, stable, and very easy to follow. Also, there are no pops, cracks, audio dropouts or distortions to report in this review. The English translation is excellent.
A Man Escaped Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
A Man Escaped Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Based on a true story, Robert Bresson's A Man Escaped is one of French Cinema's greatest masterpieces. Dry, methodical, and at times unbearably tense, it is also rightfully considered one of the greatest jailbreak films of all time. Though not flawless, Criterion's Blu-ray release of A Man Escaped is clearly superior to the one French label Gaumont produced two years ago. Also included on Criterion's release as bonus features are three outstanding documentary films focusing on Bresson's unique style and legacy. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
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