Movie Pick: ‘Le Trou’ Is Classic Filmmaking From Jacques Becker

A new 4K restoration of Le Trou, director Jacques Becker’s final (and some would call best) film, is having a week long exclusive run at Laeemble’s Ahrya Fine Arts in Beverly Hills. If you love prison break dramas with a refreshing amount of neorealism, Le Trou is a perfect movie choice.

Le Trou

Based on a true story, Le Trou centers on several prisoners in Le Sante prison who are attempting to escape. Since the Paris located prison is labyrinthine and built like a fortress, their plans must be perfectly executed. Complicating matters is Claude Gaspard (The Umbrellas of Cherbourg’s Marc Michel), an inmate who is transferred in the four prisoners’ cell. Since each of them are doing hard time or may even be executed, trusting Gaspard is a sheer necessity.

Le Trou
Jean Keraudy in Jacques Becker’s LE TROU (1960). Courtesy: Rialto Pictures/Studiocanal, Photograph by Henri Thibault

The movie’s authenticity can partly be credited to Jose Giovanni whose book Le Trou served as the basis for Becker’s film. Along with co-writing the screenplay, Giovanni was also one of the men involved in the actual event. Roland Barbat, another prisoner involved in the escape, is actually one of the actors in the film (under the pseudonym Jean Keraudy). With a face fit for film noir and tough guy flicks, it’s a wonder that Barbat’s (I mean Keraudy’s!) only film credit is Le Trou.

The cell sequences, which feature the four men shifting from befriending to mistrusting Gaspard, is executed like a cramped stage play. Becker balances these well written and acted character driven sequences with pure visual cinema as the prisoners explore the inner workings of the prison’s lower sections.

Though it clocks in at 132 minutes, there’s not an ounce of fat on Le Trou. Becker’s determination to make every detail of the prison escape realistic and his successful character building with each of the inmates (Philippe Leroy is magnetic as Manu, the main guy who has doubts about Gasbard) makes every minute worthwhile.

Le Trou
Michel Constantin, Jean Keraudy, Philippe Leroy, Raymond Meunier, and Marc Michel in Jacques Becker’s LE TROU (1960). Courtesy: Rialto Pictures/Studiocanal, Photograph by Henri Thibault

Whether it’s within the claustrophobic confines of a jail cell or the darkened corners Le Sante prison, Becker knows how to compose visually arresting cinema. Coupled with an excellent (and at the time a mainly non-professional) ensemble, Le Trou is a classic that’s definitely worth seeing on the big screen.

Le Trou’s exclusive run begins today at Laemmle’s Ahrya Fine Arts Theatre in Beverly Hills.

 

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