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Poster for Le trou (The Hole)
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Le trou (The Hole)

Opens on July 6

Director: Jacques Becker Run Time: 131 min. Format: DCP Release Year: 1960 Language: French with English subtitles

Starring: Jean Keraudy, Marc Michel, Raymond Meunier

Four years after Bresson’s A Man Escaped, Jacques Becker directed his own film about prison escape, this time asking not what one man can accomplish with his hands but rather what five men can accomplish with their hands. The answer? If Bresson highlights shrewd ingenuity, Becker foregrounds brute force. The escape plan hatched by Becker’s quintet of convicts is logistically simpler but physically more demanding than the one required of Bresson’s solitary war prisoner, and the director doesn’t let the audience forget it. Scenes in which the protagonists take turns bashing metal into concrete, chipping away gradually at layers of stone and dirt, are observed at such length and with such uncompromising rigor that they become hypnotic. But it’s not merely the procedural detail that moved Jean-Pierre Melville to hail Le trou as “the greatest French film of all time.” In its intense focus on a mostly frictionless collaborative unit, the film offers an affecting portrait of solidarity under duress. What solidifies it as a Melville favorite is a sprinkling of dishonor that ranks among the most shocking and distressing in all French cinema. 

Text by Carson Lund.


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