Monday 19 October 2020

Jean-Pierre Melville at the Randwick Ritz - LEON MORIN, PRIEST (France, 1961, 128 minutes) Sunday October 25 at 4.00 pm

After three variations on the French underworld, the Jean-Pierre Melville season at the Ritz Cinemas Randwick moves onto another of Melville’s key themes, life during the period of the Germa
n Occupation and the world of the French Resistance. 

First up is his 1961 drama LEON MORIN,  PRIEST starring Jean-Paul Belmondo and Emmanuelle Riva.  Australia’s reigning Melville expert Adrian Danks describes the film thus: A priest helps a disillusioned war widow during WWII. Sometimes regarded as his first ‘mature’ work, Melville’s quiet film explores the psychology and humanity of the priest (a soulful and restrained Jean-Paul Belmondo) and the woman (an intense Emmanuelle Riva) through a series of moral, aesthetic and theological discussions set against the meticulously detailed period of the Occupation. Shot by regular collaborator Henri Decaë and Jean Rabier, and assistant direction from Volker Schlöndorff.  There will be more about the second Resistance feature ARMY OF THE SHADOWS (1969),  some say his greatest work, next week


Belmondo, Riva

Over the years LEON MORIN, PRIEST has become a film which has gathered much international critical support including from two renowned critics reproduced below.


 Chris Peachment

Melville’s extraordinary excursion into Bressonian territory, set in a provincial town during the World War 2 German Occupation of France. With perfect formal control and an extreme emotional intensity, he forges links between the disparate themes of the Occupation, profane love and spiritual quest. Superb performances from Belmondo as the priest with radical ideas and an eye for the women; and from Emmanuelle Riva as the young girl who, like her town, surrenders to an alien force – she is quite literally invaded by God. In exactly the same fashion as his priest, Melville uses the barest of material assets, but maximum emotional and metaphysical toughness, to inveigle the most skeptical of observers into acknowledging the operation of divine grace. With the Liberation comes a concomitant slackening of intensity; then detachment, loss and the conclusion that even God has a sense of irony. Miraculous cinema, even for heretics. (Time Out Film Guide)


Roger Ebert

In 1961, one year after he appeared in "Breathless" (1960) and two years after she appeared in "Hiroshima, Mon Amour," Jean-Paul Belmondo and Emmanuelle Riva made "Leon Morin, Priest." They were both in the white heat of their early careers; Belmondo would make five other films that year. The director was Jean-Pierre Melville, known for his films about gangsters and the Resistance. A crime film might have been ideal for them, but instead they filmed this story at the intersection of desire, religion and politics….

"Leon Morin, Priest" is a consistently intriguing film, because Melville so cleverly plays with our expectations. There is an undercurrent of sincere religiosity at work. Morin is a sincere priest who is prepared to accept a posting in a remote district where no one will be interested in his books. "I will convert the nations," he says, "starting with this village."

Leon Morin, Priest  will be introduced by Max Berghouse, a frequent contributor to the Film Alert 101 blog and an authority on a number of key French film-makers including Julien Duvivier whose work he has written about extensively.


Book Tickets Here

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