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Léon Morin, Priest (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]
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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
Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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).Read more ›
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A wonderful movie. I highly recommend it. Gives a real feel of the war years and early days after the liberation of France.Published 3 months ago by sallyteach
I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked this film.i do like Melville,and have seen a few of his "gangster" films. Read morePublished 7 months ago by Jon Hufford
Excellent film, DVD transfer looks crisp. Sound is nice. Highly recommended.Published 12 months ago by Gregg A Mixdorf
Brilliant and haunting. Riva and Bel Mondo at the top of their game in this searing drama of lust and chastity within the framework of the Roman Catholic Church's insane ideas... Read morePublished 13 months ago by Daniel G. Madigan
Excellent dialogue delivered by J.P, Belmondo and rest of cast. VERY strange outlook on life by any priest past or present.Published 13 months ago by Maximo
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 17 months ago by John Ford
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 morePublished 19 months ago by Gryphon X
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 morePublished 23 months ago by Citris1
All in order, expectations met, criterion collection is the best for all cinephiles out there, highly recommended. Packaging no trouble with it eitherPublished on June 26, 2013 by Luis Gomez Gonzale