Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Le trou

There's something special about the French cinema of the 1950s, before la nouvelle vague, when an austere, clean style was popular, most famously in the films of Robert Bresson and Jean-Pierre Melville. It's also very apparent in Le trou (1960), directed by Jacques Becker, and based on a true story about an attempt to break out of La Santé prison in 1947. It's similar in style and look to Bresson's A Man Escaped (Un condamné à mort s'est échappé 1956), which is also based on a true story.

Le trou is little over two hours, has no music and little dialogue. The actors are all amateurs, some even prisoners, and most of the film takes place in a cell shared by five men. There are just two scenes outside of the prison. But the tension and the atmosphere are remarkable. It's almost a zenlike experience to watch it. The quiet desperation of it all. It's a beautiful film.

I haven't seen enough of Becker's films to talk about his work with nothing more than generalizations, but of those I've seen Le trou is by far the best. And now I want to see Casque d'or (1952) again.

(All the films I've mentioned are available on dvd.)

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