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Saturday, October 19, 2013

Leon Morin, Pretre (1961)

Set during the WWII of Nazi occupied France, a widow (Emmanuelle Riva, AMOUR) who is both communist and atheist attempts to provoke a priest (Jean Paul Belmondo) during the act of confession. Instead of chastising her, a series of dialogues begin between the woman and the priest regarding faith and God. He does not push or bully her toward the "right" path but wants her to choose it of her own accord. While there are other characters and incidents in the film, it is essentially about these two people. Based on the prize winning novel THE PASSIONATE HEART by Beatrix Beck, Jean Pierre Melville's (LE SAMOURAI) film is a calculated leisurely paced look at France under occupation, sexual repression but predominantly about God's place in our moral (or lack of it) structure. Still, this is assuredly not a religious film, Jean Paul Belmondo's priest is nothing like Bing Crosby in GOING MY WAY (thank heavens!). It's an atypical role for Belmondo and he's letter perfect here. His usual sensuality and brashness nowhere to be found. I'll be honest, I'm not sure I got anything from the film but it's an assured piece of cinema. With Irene Tunc, Nicole Mirel and Patricia Gozzi (SUNDAYS AND CYBELE).

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