The ‘prison cycle’
Un Condamné à mort s’est échappé, Pickpocket and Le Procès de Jeanne d’Arc
in Robert Bresson
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Un Condamné à mort s'est échappé, released in 1956, was and remains Robert Bresson's most commercially successful and critically bestreceived film, though curiously for a very long time it was unavailable in Britain. Pickpocket is widely recognised as marking a key break in Bresson's work. He is also engaging, deliberately or not, in intertextual rivalry with one of the silent cinema's greatest classics, Carl Theodor Dreyer's La Passion de Jeanne d'Arc of 1928. Films about prison and escape have been a fairly regular feature of French as of Hollywood cinema, but it would be as much of a category mistake to place Un Condamné in this genre as to regard it as a 'Resistance film'. Yet Un Condamné is anything but a 'Resistance film', in the sense in which that term can be applied to Melville's L'Armée des ombres or more recently Berri's Lucie Aubrac.

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