Léon Morin, Priest

  • Wed Oct 11
  • Sat Oct 14
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Léon Morin, Priest
Jean-Pierre Melville
Jean-Paul Belmondo, Emmanuelle Riva

“In a small French town, with the menfolk away, by choice or duress,” begins the trailer to Jean-Pierre Melville’s cerebral take on the clergy and morality, Léon Morin, Priest. The film is set in Vichy France, or France under the German occupation of WWII, when the men left behind their wives and all the women in their lives to fight a war. The women were then left to themselves and to one of the few young, handsome men spared by the horrors of battle, Léon Morin, the priest of the local parish, played by Jean-Paul Belmondo (Breathless, Pierrot Le Fou). Barny, played by Emmanuelle Riva (Hiroshima, Mon Amour), is a young widow, an atheist and a communist, who enters into a complicated, intellectual and yet sexually-charged relationship with the priest, in which they discuss the nature of good and evil, morality and desire, and in which Barny asks the question of Léon Morin, “If you weren’t a priest, would you take me as your wife?” even after declaring that she is in love with a woman, Sabine, her supervisor. The setting is so bleak that even the lightest touch– the brushing of sleeves– electrifies the screen. “With his intense physicality Mr. Belmondo, another star of the French New Wave, brings a shock of the carnal to every encounter,” (NY Times) though Melville seeks to portray far more than carnal desire and the search for God in Léon Morin, Priest. “The new restoration includes two additional sequences, totaling 11 minutes, apparently cut after the movie’s premiere at the Venice Film Festival. In the first, Barny is threatened by a collaborationist colleague who suspects her of sheltering a Jewish family; in the second, she suffers a crisis of conscience upon learning that a young girl with whom she is acquainted has been marked for death by the Resistance for fraternizing with the Germans. Both scenes are politically sensitive. Both enrich what is a gripping movie, and also a great one.” (J. Hoberman, NY Times)

website: rialtopictures.com

New Digital Restoration
DCP bw
2 hours 8 minutes
release year/country
1961 France