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Léon Morin, Priest (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray] (1961)

Jean-Paul Belmondo , Emmanuelle Riva , Jean-Pierre Melville  |  Unrated |  Blu-ray
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)

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Léon Morin, Priest (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray] + Army of Shadows (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray] + Last Year at Marienbad (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]
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Product Details

  • Actors: Jean-Paul Belmondo, Emmanuelle Riva
  • Directors: Jean-Pierre Melville
  • Format: 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 (18 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B004WPYO6U
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #78,431 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

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

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.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
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 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the finest films by Melville May 27, 2011
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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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Another excellent Criterion release August 1, 2011
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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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars FAITH & DESIRE October 23, 2011
John-Pierre Melville's 1961 exploration of the friction between faith and desire stars John-Paul Belmondo in a cassock. There's something very cool -- certainly intentional -- about Belmondo's look that only further fuels the sexual tension he evokes among the women encounters on his life's path. But there are many factors at work here beyond the repressed sexuality inherent in a vow of celibacy. Looming over everything are the shifting values of a post war France recovering from the war. There's an aura of ambiguity and uncertainty in the world of this story, themes to which Melville would return and to which he was personally attracted.

Belmondo's priest is the spiritual guardian of a small French village during the Nazi occupation. He believes that anyone can be saved. So when he encounters Barny (Emmanuella Riva), a sexually frustrated widow and communist militant who barges into his church and tears his religion apart, he reacts with compassion. Thus an unexpected relationship is begun that is the core of the film's dramatic tensions and pleasures.

A Jewish atheist, director Melville surprises us with a movie seemingly filled with religion. But a closer look reveals only the frightening distortions created between lonely people caught in prisons of their newly discovered existential freedom. Or, in other words, the paradoxical dilemma of the traps imposed by our free-will choices.

Melville once glibly said the main idea of the film was none of the kind, but only to "show this amorous priest who likes to excite girls but doesn't sleep with them." But I think Melville knew better. One thing's for sure: It's impossible to imagine this film with a star other than Belmondo. His rumpled charisma and physicality, even in a liturgical frock, are astonishing. That face!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Ford55
Powerful Film That Delves Into Some Very Strong Issues That There Is Not Any Good Or a Some Times Right Answers To These Strong Philosophical Challenges.
Published 1 month ago by John Ford
4.0 out of 5 stars An INTELLIGENT film about faith, that even people who don't have any...
This is especially refreshing at a time when the American film industry is pandering to the religious market with a lot of mawkish, simplistic and eye-rollingly literal movies. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Gryphon X
3.0 out of 5 stars Super Priest
This is obviously a well crafted film but I didn't like the story much. Leon came off as Super Priest, always with a quick answer, soundly defeating all doubt, never expressing any... Read more
Published 7 months ago by Citris1
5.0 out of 5 stars Prompt delivery, pristine conditions
All in order, expectations met, criterion collection is the best for all cinephiles out there, highly recommended. Packaging no trouble with it either
Published 16 months ago by Luis Gomez Gonzale
5.0 out of 5 stars Faith Affirming Character Study
Set in Nazi occupied France Melville's film deals with the relationship between Morin (Belmondo) and a lonely atheist Barny (Riva). Read more
Published 17 months ago by JMF
5.0 out of 5 stars Dramatic and engaging character study
Léon Morin, Priest is the excellent character study between a young widow and a priest during the Nazi occupation of France. Read more
Published 17 months ago by SJreviewsEverything
5.0 out of 5 stars speedy no issues
speedy no issues. everything seemed to be in order with the box, album art, disc and insert, thank you again
Published 17 months ago by Chris W.
5.0 out of 5 stars dvd
love it it is a French movie but can use it in usa in black and white use it in dvd players
Published 19 months ago by Teresa Sue Allen
5.0 out of 5 stars Not Army of Shadows, but great stuff....
Now, this film is not for everyone--especially Mellville fans who are expecting fedoras and trenchcoats.... Read more
Published on September 17, 2012 by Dr. Morbius
5.0 out of 5 stars living leon?
Jean-Pierre Melville as a cinematic story-teller has lived up to his inspirational literary hero, Herman Melville, and created such films like Le Samourai/Bob Le Flambeur/Les... Read more
Published on December 24, 2011 by rome-nylover
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