Criterion releases Robert Bressonís A Man Escaped on Blu-ray, presenting the film in its original aspect ratio of about 1.33:1 on this dual-layer disc. The transfer is delivered in 1080p/24hz.
As expected Criterion delivers yet another stunning black and white transfer. The film looks natural, retaining its grain, and the image doesnít present any noticeable manipulation or artifacts. Contrast may have been pumped a little bit, but blacks and gray levels look superb, and shadow delineation is excellent with no noticeable crushing.
The image looks sharp and delivers a decent amount of detail when the source allows, and print damage is minimal. Overall itís a strong, film-like presentation. 8/10
All Blu-ray screen captures come from the source disc and have been shrunk from 1920x1080 to 900x506 and slightly compressed to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.
Criterion delivers a number of worthwhile supplements starting with an episode of 'Cinťastes de notre temps from 1965 called Bresson: Without a Trace, which is a 67-minute interview with the normally reclusive director. Iíve always understood that Bresson had a certain disdain for film, feeling that the acting and all of the theatrical aspects got in the way, but from this interview it comes off like he absolutely hates it. He expresses his lack of concern for the acting aspects and talks primarily about the cinematography and the blending of sound, while the director of the episode asks him various questions about his thoughts on the medium and his work. Itís a bit awkward in its editing but itís one of the few lengthy interviews I know of with the director and it proves to be fairly fascinating.
Following this is a 1984 documentary called The Road to Bresson, which features filmmakers Leo de Boer and Jurien Rood trying to get an interview with Bresson while heís doing a press tour for what would have been his latest film, LíArgent. We get some footage from one of the press conferences, which presents a rather flustered and annoyed Bresson answering questions he obviously finds idiotic. We also get some interviews with Andrei Tarkovsky and Paul Scharader, who talk about Bresson and the genius of his work. The documentary manages to goes through his early life and his small body of films as well. Eventually the two do get an interview with the director, where he actually comes off a little more willing to talk than I would have thought. I think itís a strong primer for those just being introduced to the director, as it covers his work and style rather well. The piece runs 56-minutes.
The Essence of Forms is a 45-minute piece from 2010, featuring interviews with A Man Escaped star FranÁois Leterrier, cinematographers Pierre Lhomme and Emmanuel Machuel, script girl Genevieve Cortier, and director Bruno Dumont. It basically gathers together the participants to talk about Bresson ranging through topics like what he was like to work with, his personality, his working method, his work in general, or how he had influenced them or impacted their lives. Not as strong as the other documentaries on the discs but itís still a worthwhile addition, offering more insight of the man.
Criterion then includes a visual essay called Functions of Film Sound, which features Dan Stewart reading text that concentrates on the use of sound in the film from David Bordwellís and Kristen Thompsonís book Film Art. The text goes over the narration in the film, the contradictory aspects of the sound to the image, the use of sound effects like how to focus on things off-screen through sound and so forth. Playing over relevant sequences from the film itís a great scholarly analysis of one aspect of Bressonís style, and also points out many things one may not have realized. It runs 20-minutes.
The disc then concludes with a 3-minute theatrical trailer. A booklet is also included featuring an essay by film scholar Tony Pipolo.
Overall itís a fairly well-rounded selection of supplements analyzing aspects of Bressonís style, managing to even gather interviews with the man. A rather solid, analytical set of supplements overall. 8/10