Léon Morin, Priest

Léon Morin, prêtre

Jean-Pierre MelvilleFrance / Italy117 minutes1961STCB&WFrench

Jul 16
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"An instant classic" (Ginette Vincendeau), this moving exploration of contested faith (which Melville, a Jewish atheist, adapted from a famous autobiographical novel about the German Occupation) proved a phenomenal popular success upon its release. Jean-Paul Belmondo (who cited his performance here as his personal favourite, though he had to be coaxed into the role by Melville) and Emmanuelle Riva, who had recently risen to stardom in, respectively, Breathless and Hiroshima mon amour, are faultlessly incorporated into Melville's universe, the director's resolute style turning what might have been a tawdry tale about an atheist Communist (Riva) who falls in love with a handsome priest (Belmondo) into an intense, sexually charged study of spiritual crisis and consolation. Often compared to Bresson's Diary of a Country Priest, Léon Morin is "reminiscent of the best work of Dreyer, Bresson, [and] Fassbinder" (Bright Lights Film Journal).