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A priest who has abandoned his ministry meets a young man who has just been
This movie is about the cruel dilemma between a life dedicated to God and faith and a life of more earthly pleasures. In post war France it is also about the mortal aspect of Faith itself.
This may not be the movie of a lifetime but it is a sin to have allowed it to fall in oblivion. Besides, Pierre Fresnay is sublime.
It is unusual to see a film where the performance of a single actor is so
good that one can feel that the film would be of little interest, if any,
without his presence.
Despite a not outstanding direction - in fact, there are many scenes that seem to have been shooted too quickly and carelessly -, a seemingly low budget, a strange plot about a man who wants to take the place of a defrocked priest and another week points, the presence of Pierre Fresnay is so impressive that one gets shocked from the very begining to the terrible end.
I have never seen nor can iomagine for future a better performance, even Paul Scofield acting in "A man for all seasons".
Actually the end could be considered even ridiculous if Fresnay were not playing the transtorned priest who returns to Church by performing a crime.
"Je suis Maurice Morand, prètre catholique" ("I am Maurice Morand, a catholic priest")is said with such a brilliancy that one may forget the madness that conducted to that end.
The other impressive thing this film has is a single scene in wich Morand - who despite being a defrocked one is stil a priest - consacrates in a cabaret a huge amount of vine turning it into Christ´s blood.
Gérard - the man that wants to return Morand to the Church or replace him by himself - has to drink it if he doesn´t want to leave it in the cabaret. He does so in mid of cheers and applauses from people who think that he is simply drinking three of four litters of vine.
In next scene, the dialoque between Morand and a garbage collector is also remarkable. "Do you carry away men too?" asks Morand, who hates himself for what he has just done. "That would be too much work" is the smart answer.
The rest of the film is not worth commenting but it is certainly worth seeing due to the very strong and strangely emotive atmosphere created all the time.
I think that "Le défroqué" is a very strange film, but has to be seen by all viewers - if the are good catholiques it is mandatory - because it is a very rare jewell in film history.
Don't miss it, if you can find it. Absolutely a must-watch; it is spectacular, fantastic!!! Very interesting storyline with a great screenplay, excellent lines too. As everybody will tell you Fresnay's acting is monumental, impressive, unbeaten to this very day. I think it was horrible for his fellow actors, how do you keep up to such gargantuan acting? Poor Trabaud (who plays the little priest) didn't manage it, IMHO. His Gerard is fine in the beginning of the movie, but afterwards gets very annoying and tedious (so annoying one can understand why he ends up the way he does). This movie needs more attention from the public, it is such a great work of art and such a shame you can't find it easily. If only for Fresnay's work, it is a pity that anyone who is interested in acting and in movies should miss it.
There are some comments about this film that say that it is a bad and
silly one and such an excellent actor as Pierre Fresnay should not have
accepted to act in it.
I think, just the opposite, that, even when the film is strange and has some weaknesses, the performance of Pierre Fresnay is so formidable that it converts the film in something excellent.
His performance is probably the best in history.
The film itself has a very polemic scene about the consecration of wine in the cabaret.
For somebody who does not believe that a priest even a defrocked one can convert it in Christ's blood, the scene is perhaps bizarre. But for somebody who has been raised in a catholic framework, it is very emotive even if quite unpleasant.
The scene of the death of the younger priest is tremendously shocking. But it is very well acted. Pierre Fresnay turns the crazy act of murder in something understandable within the temporal madness of his character, the tortured defrocked Morand who, in this terrible way, comes back to his duty.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
At the beginning of this year I was fortunate enough to see several titles in a season of Danielle Darrieux films at one of a number of cinemas du quartier in Paris that takes these things seriously and among the titles I saw was Caprices, directed by journeyman Leo Johannon and my total enjoyment of the film predisposed me to looking favorably on other work by Johannon. Boy, did I get a wrong number. I suppose today the spectacle of a defrocked priest beating a newly ordained priest virtually to death with a large, heavy crucifix wouldn't even pass an audition for a Quentin Tarentino effort but back in 1954 it probably raised the odd eyebrow if not tonsure. Just who this film was aimed at is anybody's guess as is why Pierre Fresnay who'd worked with the best, deigned to appear in it. If the spoilt brats of the New Vavelet had rebelled against stuff like THIS instead of the Great movies they could never hope to equal then I could understand it and would even concede they had a point; as it is I watched in a semi hypnotic state like a rabbit caught in the headlights of Joannon's ego. Luckily merde like this only surfaces about once a decade in French cinema whilst in Hollywood it has become the norm. See it for the experience then find out if Caprices is available on DVD.
Enough is enough!Enough is enough!Enough is enough! This Sulpician
melodrama at its kitschest is so over the top,so outré ,so stupid and
so old-fashioned it can still grab today's audience.The problem is :
will they take it seriously or will they have a good laugh?Probably the
Best(or worst) example: the defrocked priest (Fresnay),in a cabaret ,consecrates a whole lot of Blanc de Blanc wine .Thus turned into the Lord's blood,it must be drunk.It's the young priest ,Fresnay's pal,who has got to do it.So ,he says (you read well) "I cannot mix My Lord's blood with the Rognons Sauce Madère and the Peach Melba" and rushes to the toilets where he vomits his dinner.Soon returning to the table where the devilish Fresnay is waiting,he begins to drink the whole bucket.Up come the gypsies,the violins and all the customers:the scene takes ridicule to new limits,and however the scene is masterfully directed ,no one can deny!
The film is an extravaganza ,full of incredible scenes nobody would dare today.The ending (Fresnay's faith is coming back)is the "I die for your sins/May My blood wash your sins away" thing .There is a similar scene in another Leo Joannon's oeuvre called "Le Désert de Pigalle" .(sic)It's Pierre Trabaud's turn again,and in that film ,a hooker (Annie Girardot ) falls in love with him.The prostitute,Jody,will die ,but she will have a vision of something white before passing away:all those girls in their communion dress ,a symbol of purity ,huh?
The question is: why an actor as talented as Pierre FResnay,who used to work with the best directors:Marcel Pagnol,HG Clouzot ,Julien Duvivier,Maurice Tourneur or Abel Gance could have sunk so low?Part of the reason can be found ,Imho,in his filmography:his only film as a director "le duel" 1939 already displayed religious concerns:he was ceaseless ranting about the perils of the devil in front of the heroine (played by his wife Yvonne Printemps).1947 saw him going at a peak of religious fervor in the only great film he made in the sacred field:"Monsieur Vincent" by Maurice Cloche,a movie which is to be recommended.Delannoy's "Dieu a besoin des hommes " was not bad either: the Bretagne island had no more priest and Fresnay's character (who was only a sacristan had to replace him."IL Est Minuit Docteur Schweizer" the follow-up to which is none other than "le Défroqué" saw Fresnay going at a peak of ham ;in "le Defroqué " it was as though the actor were daring the audience to respect him!
And anyway,"le défroqué " (a French John Wateresque film if you know what I mean)is a turkey which should not be missed.
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