Le Trou (Jacques Becker, 1960)
Introduced by one of the five men who tried to escape the prison Paix la Santé in France. This is the last film of director Jacques Becker, who died shortly after finishing the filming, Le Trou, is an excellent suspense film that however reminded of Grand Illusion, Becker was assistant director for Jean Renoir, and Robert Bresson’s A Man Escaped. It is probably as entertaining as both movies but not as deep and masterful in meaning as neither of them. It is, indeed, a great movie but not a masterpiece as both titles aforementioned apply.
We follow the young Claude Gaspard (Marc Michel) who is transferred into an already crowded cell of four inmates; Geo (Michel Constantin), Monseigneur (Raymond Meunier), Rolland (Jean Keraudy), and Manu (Philippe Leroy). They asked to work and their duty is to make boxes of carton and they plan to escape the prison. Like many escapist films, it involves a lot of ingenuous use of the few resources the inmates have in their reach. They’ll dig, a whole in the cement walls and they’ll have to work as a team to check the guards and continue their work. All the action takes place in the confine space of the cell and the few shots of the prison and its basement. To make a film like Le Trou that keeps a good pace and that works for more than 120 minutes you need a strong script and a gifted director. In this case it is clear that both were present and the original story adapted from José Giovanni’s novel was pretty efficient.
Overall, this is a very satisfying film and of the many escape movies out there, yes there are plenty and a lot are more than worth the watch, I think it would make my Top 5. It was the first time I watched a film directed by Becker, and I must admit that I liked his subtle but very efficient directing. However, it is not a filmmaker I think that was as talented and inspired as the young New Wavers to come in France and after having read that François Truffaut wasn’t his big fan either but that he preferred Becker’s Casque d’Or it intrigues me even more to discover this period drama now that I have seen and enjoyed Le Trou. You pair Le Trou with Bresson’s A Man Escaped and you’re in for a nice evening of jailbreaks.