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Un condamné à mort s'est échappé(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 Un condamné à mort s'est échappé and the Un condamné à mort s'est échappé Blu-ray release, see the Un condamné à mort s'est échappé Blu-ray Review
Starring: François Leterrier, Charles Le Clainche, Maurice Beerblock
Director: Robert Bresson
» See full cast & crew
Un condamné à mort s'est échappé Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, April 25, 2011
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 French distributors Gaumont. The supplemental features on the disc include the film's original theatrical trailer and a documentary film directed by Pierre-Henri Gilbert. In French, with optional English and French SDH subtitles for the main feature. Region-Free.
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.
Un condamné à mort s'est échappé 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 Un condamné à mort s'est échappé arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of French distributors Gaumont.
I have mixed feelings about the presentation of this classic French film. Struck from a freshly restored master, the high-definition transfer Gaumont have used for their Blu-ray release clearly outdoes the standard definition transfer British distributors Artificial Eye used for their SDVD release of director Bresson's film a couple of years ago -- detail, clarity, and contrast are indeed dramatically improved, and the mild to moderate macroblocking that plagues the SDVD release is also gone. Furthermore, on the SDVD the film looks enormously soft, occasionally even fuzzy, breaking down during the final twenty or so minutes; on the Blu-ray the film still looks soft but it has nice organic qualities; film grain, in particular, is very prominent. A large number of the stability issues present on the SDVD release are also eliminated. Various scratches, cuts, warps, and debris have been addressed as well.
Unfortunately, a portion of the high-definition transfer is marred by the presence of various extremely light to moderate chroma noise effects (see screencapture #12), most of which appear very early into the film. Some have a tendency to pulsate for a couple of seconds, others simply pop up and quickly disappear. This is quite disappointing because otherwise Gaumont's high-definition transfer is indeed very impressive. (Note: This is a Region-Free Blu-ray disc. Therefore, you will be able to play it on your PS3 or SA regardless of your geographical location. For the record, there is no problematic PAL or 1080/50i content preceding the disc's main menu).
Un condamné à mort s'est échappé Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There is only one audio track on this Blu-ray disc: French DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0. For the record, Gaumont have provided optional English and French SDH subtitles for the main feature.
Unlike the video treatment, the audio treatment is flawless. Clearly, various stabilizations have been performed and background noise and hiss removed. As a result, the dialog is crisp, clean, stable, and exceptionally easy to follow. Predictably, the dynamic amplitude of the lossless track is quite limited, but the depth and clarity it allows for are indeed very pleasing. The English translation is excellent.
Un condamné à mort s'est échappé Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Note: All of the supplemental features on this Blu-ray disc are perfectly playable on North American PS3s and Blu-ray players.
Un condamné à mort s'est échappé Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
I have to speculate that sooner rather than later Robert Bresson's A Man Escaped will appear in the Criterion Collection. I also feel confident in stating that when it does - obviously, as a Blu-ray release - it would be an all-around better package (see the video portion of this review) than the one French distributors Gaumont have put together. My advise to you is to wait for the Criterion release. In the meantime, if you could, RENT this release.
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