A Man Escaped

Based on a French lieutenant’s account of his 1942 escape from a gestapo fortress in Lyons, this stately yet uncommonly gripping 1956 feature is my choice as the greatest achievement of our greatest living filmmaker, Robert Bresson (rivaled only by his more corrosive and metaphysical Au hasard Balthazar a decade later). The best of all prison-escape movies, it reconstructs the very notion of freedom through offscreen sounds and defines salvation in terms of painstakingly patient and meticulous effort. Bresson himself spent part of the war in an internment camp and subsequently lived through the German occupation of France, experiences that inform his magisterial grasp of what concentrated use of sound and image can reveal about souls in hiding. Thanks to the untiring efforts of the Cinematheque Ontario’s James Quandt, the Film Center is presenting a nearly complete retrospective of Bresson’s work in new 35-millimeter prints this spring (missing only his 1934 short Affaires publiques); it offers a unique opportunity to experience this awesome talent, whose artistry is severely compromised on video. If you follow only one film series this year, you couldn’t do much better than this one. Film Center, Art Institute, Columbus Drive at Jackson, Thursday, April 8, 8:00, 312-443-3737. –Jonathan Rosenbaum

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): film still.