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Léon Morin, Priest (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]

23 customer reviews

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(Jul 26, 2011)
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Editorial Reviews

Jean-Paul Belmondo (Breathless) dons clerical robes and delivers a subtly sensual performance for the hot-under-the-collar Léon Morin, Priest, directed by Jean-Pierre Melville (Army of Shadows). The French superstar plays a devoted man of the cloth who is the crush object of all the women of a small village in Nazi-occupied France. He finds himself most drawn to a sexually frustrated widow--played by Emmanuelle Riva (Hiroshima mon amour)--a borderline heretic whose relationship with her confessor is a confrontation with both God and her own repressed desire. A triumph of mood, setting, and innuendo, Léon Morin, Priest is an irreverent pleasure from one of French cinema’s towering virtuosos.

Special Features

New high-definition digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack

Archival interview with director Jean-Pierre Melville and Jean-Paul Belmondo

Visual essay by French film scholar Ginette Vincendeau

Original theatrical trailer

PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by critic and novelist Gary Indiana

Product Details

  • Actors: Jean-Paul Belmondo, Emmanuelle Riva
  • Directors: Jean-Pierre Melville
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Blu-ray, Black & White, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: French
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region A/1 (Read more about DVD/Blu-ray formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.77:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Criterion Collection
  • DVD Release Date: July 26, 2011
  • Run Time: 117 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B004WPYO6U
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #101,016 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Blu-ray
Jean-Pierre Melville will be known by many as an "Auteur" filmmaker.

One of the few men who were a major influence on Nouvelle Vague (French New Wave), Melville was known for films that were tragic, minimalist film noir. From films such as "Les Enfants terribles" (1950), Bob Le Flambeur (1955), "Le Doulos" (1962), "Le Samorai" (1967) and "Le Circle Rouge" (1969), there was a time when he wanted to escape from it.

To no longer be known as an "Auteur maudit" and when given the opportunity to make a big-budget film, he went for it!

In 1961, he had his chance with "Léon Morin, Priest". The film is an adaptation of Beatrix Beck's 1952 novel and it would be the film that gave Melville the chance to have the money to film expensive shots and yet incorporating style from the New Wave. Attracting audiences were the inclusion of popular talents Jean-Paul Belondo ("Two Women", "Breathless", "A Woman is a Woman", "Le Doulos") and Emmanuelle Riva ("Hiroshima Mon Amour", "Kapo") but also to earn Melville a different type of recognition for his film that he had never had before.

The film would receive rave reviews from the right because of its Catholic/religious theme (note: Melville was an atheist) and receive rave reviews from religious to non-religious film critics. But it also helped that Beck's original novel was highly popular and you had a popular filmmaker such as Melville and his name attached to it.


"Léon Morin, Priest" is presented in black and white 1080p High Definition (1:66:1 aspect ratio). Previously, the film was only available via DVD through the BFI (British Film Institute). The biggest difference in HD is that there is more detail and clarity. Especially outdoors where Barny is walking around town.
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28 of 32 people found the following review helpful By anandsiga on May 27, 2011
Format: Blu-ray
Belmando is at his best in this beautiful movie as a young priest who faces women with all kinds of troubles in his parish. This is classic Melville with Henri Decae's excellent camera work. A rare gem of it's own kind.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By dnewman2 on August 1, 2011
Format: Blu-ray
The Second World War profoundly affected so many millions of lives in so many places around the globe, that it has provided an inexhaustible supply of stories over the years. Jean-Pierre Melville's LEON MORIN, PRIEST, based on an autobiographical novel by Beatrix Beck, presents one woman's account of life in occupied France and her relationship with a local priest in her village. Under Melville's astute direction, the film shows us a unique facet in the endless World War II mosaic.

Widely regarded as the father of the French New Wave in the 1960's, Jean-Pierre Melville (LE SAMOURAI, ARMY OF SHADOWS) was a master producer and director whose influence on his filmmaking progeny - Truffaut, Godard, Resnais, Rohmer, etc. - was profound. Born Jean-Pierre Grumbach to a Jewish family, he became obsessed with film at an early age. His own moviemaking explorations were interrupted, however, by induction into the French army in the late 1930's. With the Nazi invasion of France in 1940, he changed his name to Melville and joined the underground French resistance, eventually taking part in the Allied liberation of Europe.

Heavily influenced by American culture and movies, Melville started his own production company after the war. The films he turned out in the fifties (BOB LE FLAMBEUR) provided a clear stylistic break from the work of classic French directors like Jean Renoir and Rene Clair. After a few box office flops, though, Melville decided to tackle more commercial fare. Working with producer Carlo Ponti, he took on the relatively big-budget adaptation of Beck's bestselling book.

Set in an occupied village mostly during the war years, LEON MORIN, PRIEST centers on the relationship between single mother, Barny (Emmanuelle Riva) and Leon Morin (Jean-Paul Belmondo).
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By ItReviewsEverything on May 25, 2013
Format: Blu-ray
Léon Morin, Priest is the excellent character study between a young widow and a priest during the Nazi occupation of France. She, an atheist, is practically forced into the church to convert to Catholicism and avoid persecution from the Nazis.

While she does follow through the nominal process of conversion, she is a reluctant party, with many serious doubts and critiques of the Church and of religion in general. The priest, surprisingly, both shares and understands many of her questions, with himself combating his own fears and concerns about religion. We get many superb scenes of intelligent, yet realistic, dialogue between two strong-willed and sharp-witted parties.

The performances are excellent as well, with Emanuelle Riva as the heroine and a handsome Jean-Paul Belmondo as the young priest. They play their characters with the fullest, bringing them to life both with charisma and insecurity. The subtleties of their performances are so impressive, it's easy to forget we are watching a movie.

Director Melville is heavy on "showing, not telling," (which he exemplifies in his minimalist Army of Shadows and Le Cercle Rouge, neither of which I particularly enjoyed), but it works here - we do see their friendship develop over the course of two hours. When they must part at the film's end, we do feel their sadness and the loss of their relationship. Léon Morin, Priest is a solid, entertaining and stimulating film that maintains our attention and breaks our heart.
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Léon Morin, Priest (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]
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