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Released alongside Breathless and The 400 Blows, Jacques Becker's 1959 film was the last great flowering of French classicism; the “tradition of quality” here goes out with a masterpiece. It's a prison-break film, based on a true story, that follows the dictates of the genre almost every step of the way but makes the conventions shine with new life and meaning. The suspense is built slowly and carefully, through finely perceived physical details and quirks of character. The obvious comparison is to Bresson's A Man Escaped, but Becker has none of Bresson's taste for abstraction; his film is rooted in the immediate, the concrete, the human. With Raymond Meunier, Philippe Leroy, Jean Keraudy, and Michael Constantin. In French with subtitles. 131 min.

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