“This story is true,” reads the opening statement of A Man Escaped. “I give it as it is, without embellishment.” Based on the memoir by Andre Devigny, a member of the French Resistance imprisoned and sentenced to death by the Gestapo during the German occupation, Bresson (himself at one time a German POW) transforms Devigny’s daring escape into an ascetic film of documentary detail. Kept in a tiny stone cell with a high window and a thick wooden door, the prisoner (renamed Fontaine in the film) makes himself intimate with his world—every surface of his room, every sound reverberating through the hall, and every detail of the prison’s layout that he can absorb in brief sojourns from his cell. Bresson magnifies every detail with insistent close-ups and detailed examinations of every step of Fontaine’s plan, from constructing and hiding ropes and hooks to painstakingly carving out an exit in the heavy cell door, and provides a sort of Greek chorus of fellow prisoners. This is Bresson’s first film to feature a completely nonprofessional cast drilled to master precise movements and deliver lines without dramatic inflection. The effect is a drama where the slightest gesture carries the weight of a confession. Bresson’s films are not for everybody, and this austere picture hardly carries the visceral punch of The Great Escape, but it’s a drama of profound power, with a gripping climax that’s as absorbing and tense as any high-energy action film. —Sean Axmaker
Often described as a “painter” of films, French director Robert Bresson was one of cinema’s greatest anomalies. He directed only 13 films over the course of 40 years, but these films were in a category all their own, minimalist works that tended towards radical (and sometimes controversial) reinterpretations of such classical sources as Diderot, Dostoyevsky, and Tolstoy. An expert manipulator of narrative incident, Bresson focused on seemingly incidental details of the stories he told and used amateur actors (whom he called ‘models’) lacking any trace of theatricality, creating searching meditations on the quality of transcendence, spirituality, and alienation. Of the artistic influences inherent in his work – perhaps most apparent in his belief that the cinema is a fusion of music and painting, not the theatre and photography – Bresson once said “Art is not a luxury, but a vital necessity.”
The year of Bresson’s birth has often been subject to debate; his biographer, Philippe… read more
Based on a true story, Robert Bresson's gripping tale of a French prisoner who plots a daring escape from a Nazi prison during WWII is a masterclass in creating suspense. Simple, methodical, and almost unbearably intense, A MAN ESCAPED is the great jailbreak film, a work of immense efficiency and assurance. Bresson's pared down, naturalist aesthetic serves to create tension out of the most mundane elements. Brilliant
A look at the second, revised edition of James Quandt’s crucial anthology, Robert Bresson.
Also: Early word on new projects from Hong Sang-soo, Sofia Coppola and more.
Also: New issues of Offscreen and Networking Knowledge.
The complete retrospective will carry on touring North America through May.
Introducing a new series of essays on the “tightly-packed excess” of Robert Bresson.
A look at the best posters for the films of Robert Bresson, to coincide with the Film Forum retrospective.
The Poetry of Precision: The Films of Robert Bresson is the first complete retrospective in North America in 14 years.
Robert Bresson’s ‘A Man Escaped’ is a miracle of economy and a testament to Bresson’s singular vision in taking a stock situation like an escape film and turning it into a transcendent work of art… read review
Based on the real-life memoirs of World War II Resistance fighter Andre Devigny, A Man Escaped is the most rewarding escape-from-prison drama ever made. Far more affecting than the sentimental The… read review