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PREVIOUSLY PLAYED

LE TROU

9:10

Tuesday, August 7

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Directed by Jacques Becker

(1960) A car mechanic tells us this is his story: too-sensitive-looking Marc Michel is ushered into a prison cell, where four wary-looking cons (including the mechanic as himself) tell him he’s looking at ten years hard labor. Then, when they abruptly take the first step toward a breakout, pounding away at a corner of the cell with a makeshift tool, a relentless and riveting “cinema of process” begins, culminating in a 4-minute take with three of the four cons taking turns at whacking away at a tunnel of freedom. Renoir protégé Becker—previously director of primo gangster films, both period (Casque d’or) and modern (Touchez pas au Grisbi)—determined to make a super-realistic treatment after reading newspaper accounts of the actual 1947 prison break, later teaming with ex-con and Série noire icon José Giovanni, who wrote his own novel on the case, and three of the actual survivors. A powerful statement of teamwork, loyalty and betrayal, told with nerve-shredding suspense and capped by the most startling turn of the “periscope” in film history, The Hole (the title’s literal translation) was rhapsodized over by contemporary critics, but haunted by the death of 53-year-old Becker at the time of its release. DCP. Approx. 131 min.

Reviews

“RIVETING. [BECKER’S] GREATEST TRIUMPH.”
– Bilge Ebiri, The Village Voice

“Acted by non-actors, all but plotless and without music, this harrowing near-documentary thriller is riveting in its detail and holds one in thrall to the bitter end.”
– Leonard Maltin

“From now on we should no longer speak of cautious talent, but of genius, the triumph of something unique and fully realized that other filmmakers have not achieved: a total simplicity joined to a precision of tone that never falters. In Le Trou there is nothing but the exact look, the alive moment, authentic faces against neutral walls, an utterly natural manner of speaking.”
– François Truffaut

“A tour de force of practical planning, tight-lipped deception, and the bonds and betrayals of friendship. It’s nearly context-free, and has the feel of a work of pure virtuosity, in which the physical details that adorn Becker’s earlier films now become an end in themselves.”
– Richard Brody, The New Yorker

“Equal parts Gallic sang-froid and nail-biting tension.”
– David Mermelstein, The Wall Street Journal