1941 in a small town in Nazi occupied France. Against the will of its elderly male and his adult niece residents, the Nazis commandeer a house for one of their officers, Lt. Werner von ... See full summary »
A French UN delegate has disappeared into thin air, sending reporter Moreau (Jean-Pierre Melville) and hard drinking photographer Delmas (Pierre Grasset) on an assignment to find him. Their only lead is a picture of three women.
In World War II, the widow Barny sees the Italian soldiers arriving in occupied Saint Bernard while walking to her job. Barny lives with her daughter and works correcting tests and feels a great attraction toward her boss Sabine. When the Germans arrive, Barny sends her half-Jewish daughter to live in a farm in the countryside and finds that Sabine's brother has been arrested and sent to a concentration camp. The atheist Barny decides to baptize her daughter to protect her and chooses priest Léon Morin to discuss with him themes related to religion and Catholicism and Léon lends books to her. Barny converts to the Catholicism and becomes closer to Léon, feeling an unrequited desire for him.Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
I generally do not go much for Melvilles's works:a lot of them deal with manly friendship among hoodlums ;they were influenced by the American film noir genre ,as for instance Robert Wise's "odds against tomorrow" but they do not equal them.There are sometimes gigantic metaphysical pretensions ("le cercle rouge" (1970);"le samouraï (1967)).Besides, these works are overlong,slow-moving and dull.
Paradoxically,his works I find the most intriguing and interesting are his non-gangsters movies:both "le silence de la mer" (1948) and "l'armée des ombres" (1969) deal with French resistance during WW2 and they are both commendable."Les enfants terribles" (1950)perfectly captures Cocteau 's spirit .And then there's "Leon Morin prêtre".
This movie is a different matter ,because its main purpose is religion.A cast against type Jean-Paul Belmondo (whom Melville would direct again the following year in "Le doulos" )rises to the occasion and thus shows he could have been more ambitious in his future career.But facing Emmanuelle Riva ("Hiroshima mon amour" ) was not an easy task,because ambitious she definitely is:one of the subtlest actresses French cinema had ever known,she never had the career she deserved because her playing was too brilliant and probably scared most of the directors .Here she delivers the goods:her part of an atheist who meets a priest during WW2 is very austere and may repel some,but her performance is thoroughly fascinating.The first line she says to priest Morin is "Religion is the opium of the people:then begins a bewildering story,during which she regains faith.And this renaissance is ambiguous:is-it because of the tragical events that stem from the war that surrounds them -one of her friend's son is sent to a concentration camp ,and he'll never return-? Is it because she is madly in love with the priest -one scene shows her try to get him into her bed-?Is it because hers is such an unfulfilled life -a daughter,but no partner-?Is it because of the priest's convincing words ,now simple,now very intellectual?The movie consists of very long conversation about faith -a whole scene revolves around Christ's famous words :"my God why have you forsaken me?"-.
That's why I would recommend the movie to people interested in theology ,or simply to believers.The others may yawn their head off.
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