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Léon Morin, Priest

(Léon Morin, prêtre)
France/Italy 1961. Dir: Jean-Pierre Melville. 128 min. DCP

NEW RESTORATION! Jean-Paul Belmondo, fresh off Godard’s game-changing 1960 debut Breathless, is the titular man of the cloth in Melville’s nuanced wartime drama, adapted from the prizewinning novel by Béatrix Beck. Set in the French Alps during Nazi occupation, it casts screen siren Emmanuelle Riva as a young, widowed mother who challenges the religious devotion of her village’s handsome Catholic priest, a chaste man she is sexually drawn to. Their verbal sparring, full of erotic innuendos and rich, theological insights, anticipated a similar lane taken by New Waver Eric Rohmer in his Moral Tales. Melville’s intimate and intellectual film was the second in a trio of acclaimed WWII pictures that showcased the robust range of the French virtuoso, best known for his laconic neo-noirs. “It’s Riva’s emotional vitality that powers the story ... and inspires Melville’s most inventive, fluid moviemaking” (Michael Sragow, Film Comment).


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REVIEWS

"A gripping movie, and also a great one."

New York Times | full review

"Perfect formal control and an extreme emotional intensity ... Miraculous cinema."

Time Out | full review