A Man Escaped
It seems almost perverse to label the great Robert Bresson’s films as ’procedurals,’ but I can’t help myself. It’s unfortunate that the term tends to conjure up images of "Law and Order: SVU" and "Bones" and whatever else is on television nowadays. But rewatching "A Man Escaped", one of Bresson’s masterpieces (recently restored and re-released onto Blu-ray by the Criterion Collection), once again reveals him to be a filmmaker who showed an almost fetish devotion to the motions and crafts of everyday life.
One of the things that makes "Escape" so exceptional is that, unlike "Pickpocket" or some of Bresson’s other films, it is not focused on everyday life. The circumstances surrounding its protagonist are extraordinary; the tale of a French Resistance leader determined to escape prison or die trying. His struggle begins as political; Bresson makes it existential. Every moment is tracked with complete devotion; every sound captured with startling clarity.
The Blu-ray brings out all the detail in Bresson’s meticulously composed frames, but it also comes with a number of features aimed at converting the Bresson agnostics. You get a 1965 interview with the man (sourced from French television), a 1984 documentary singing his praises (featuring segments with filmmakers like Andrei Tarkovsky and Louis Malle), an alternative appreciative documentary from 2010, and a visual essay on Bresson’s profound use of sound (there’s also, as always, an illuminative essay in the accompanying booklet).
There’s not much suspense in Bresson’s film - the title says it all. But his films are focused on the road as much as the destination. Bresson finds poetry in the rhythms and processes of life, and grace in their results.
"A Man Escaped"