Jean-Paul Le Chanois ,as anyone French cine buff past infancy should know,was the main Bête Noire of the New Wavelet;their simplistic put down overlooked his good movies,and the good ones are worthy of of investigation:if one can forget his failed " Les Misérables" and his sixties mediocre stuff,it is to his neglected worthwhile works that any fair review must address itself: "Messieurs Ludovic" ,"Sans Laisser D'Adresse" "Agence Matrimoniale" and his marvelous "Ecole Buissonnière" ,an effort every teacher of the world should see.And "Les Evadés".
The "Dictionnaire Des Films' pans the movie in three lines ,complaining it's not as good as Renoir's "La Grande Illusion" ;the critic states the obvious,but Le Chanois's work is at least as good as Renoir's "Le Caporal Epinglé".
Based on Michel André's memories ,a movie in which the writer plays more or less his own role,abetted by two seasoned actors,François Périer and Pierre Fresnay who finds one of his rare latter days good parts.
The film begins in a labor camp :the bleak landscape ,the flat land where the prisoners move is very well depicted .
Most of the action takes place in a boxcar where three escapees hope to get to Sweden;there's the soldier who wants to resume the fight (Michel) the simple private who's tired of being a fighter(Périer),and the intellectual ,a schoolteacher fluent in German -which is useful- and who does not exactly what he is going to do .
Their main problem is water and there are plenty of good lines dealing with it:for instance ,Périer discovering he's been drinking in a "truncated cone" for years without knowing it ,is a good lesson in maths :how many glasses are we allowed to drink ?
On the train,their journey will be perilous :every station is a threat,where they may be discovered by the German soldiers,and then again ,Le Chanois makes the railroad track a sinister background .A chorus sings "A La Claire Fontaine" :women heading for the concentration camps.
NB: Not to be mistaken for "Les Evadés" ,which is the French title of "the Shawshank redemption" .
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