Thursday, June 28, 2012

Le Trou (The Hole) (1960)

Seen: On dvd on my friend Sam's projector set-up.

After our Cage weekend featuring The Rock, a friend recommended another prison-related movie that I hadn't heard of. Le Trou is a deceptively simple film that focuses on a group of affable male prisoners who plot to escape their cell by digging a tunnel in the sewers underneath the prison. They spend weeks setting up their plan, monitoring the guards' movements and routines, and then take turns digging for days straight under the cover of a nearby construction project. Mostly they hang out and are best friends and it's adorable.

Describing this movie makes it sound kind of boring, which is too bad. It really is just a bunch of super friendly French dudes hanging out in a cell, being super nice to each other, and having a super good time together. It's paced slowly but never dull, as we see new cellmate Geo (Michael Constantin) get to know the other men in the group, and share his own story. He accidentally shot his wife through the shoulder during an argument, and she accused him of attempted murder so he's not getting out any time soon. They trust him enough to bring him into their plans, and the story moves along gradually from there as the various pieces come together.

There isn't a lot of tension, which is interesting for a prison break film. Most of the people who work at the prison are shown to be polite and forgiving, and this is definitely not a high security set-up. (Honestly it looks like a pretty nice time, everyone is friends and they get free soup every day! Why would they want to escape?) As their work moves along it seems likely they'll escape, and they work so hard for it you hope they do. It's filmed in a tight, intimate way that makes the viewer a part of the group, a fellow inmate and friend, and the stakes are raised through the connection forged between character and audience. I know it doesn't sound it, but this film is compelling and just all-around good.

4.5/5

Pair This Movie With: Mmmm probably another prison movie? I haven't seen The Great Escape but that's an option. Or Cool Hand Luke is always fun.

5 comments:

  1. Well, I think you should pair this with 'A Man Escaped? (1956) by Robert Bresson, which is another great French 'escape from prison' movie and a perfect double bill to 'The Hole'.

    Taci

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  2. Great review on a favorite film and, yes, A MAN ESCAPED is a good one. I was also thinking of life-afterwards, in LA BANDERA (1935 with Jean Gabin, in the French Foreign Legion thinking he's escaped his crime)... or Gabin again in LE JOUR SE LEVE (1939) for a "life before prison" where he's killed a man and holed up in his apartment, awaiting the police.

    Or the fun BIG HOUSE U.S.A. (1955) with a who's who of American Heavies from the '40s and '50s, another prison break film where everyone's playing nicey-nice because the New Kid In The (Cell)Block claims to have a fortune. On the outside.

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