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"A Man Escaped": As Noirish As It Gets 

Wednesday, Mar 18 2015

Poise seems like the basic essence of Robert Bresson, that ascetic French master whose film A Man Escaped, from 1956, depicts a methodical Mozart-scored jailbreak. Noir-wise, Bresson probably isn't the first name you think of, but that makes it all the more exciting to find him first in the queue Thursday evening for the Roxie's 15-film series A Rare Noir Is Good to Find. In a genre so often characterized by potboilers full of dupes coming unglued, A Man Escaped offers instead a protagonist chiseled down to pure, purposeful resilience. And come to think of it, the Bressonian clarity of narrative drive seems as absolutely noirish as the will to bust out of a Nazi prison seems universally, if retrospectively, relatable. Retrospect looms cynically large in this series of 15 films from 10 countries, some of whose says-it-all titles include There's Always a Price Tag (France, 1957); Underworld Beauty (Japan, 1958); Sin Alley (Denmark, 1957); and Assault on the Pay Train (Brazil, 1962). But it's coolly comforting to recall how the innocence that lay shattered in the wake of World War II wasn't America's alone — just as it's heartening to rediscover the improbable beauty within the bleak scenario of A Man Escaped. Of course the "rarity" of Bresson's film is a point you could nitpick — it's in the Criterion Collection, after all, and on Hulu — but big-screen sightings are indeed hard to come by, and also rare in the sense of being precious.


About The Author

Jonathan Kiefer

SF Weekly movie critic Jonathan Kiefer is on Twitter: @kieferama and of course @sfweeklyfilm.


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