Diary of a Country Priest
The Criterion Collection
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A young priest arrives in the French country village of Ambricourt to attend to his first parish, but the apathetic and hostile rural congregation rejects him immediately. Through his diary entries, the suffering young man relays a crisis of faith that threatens to drive him away from the village and from God. The fourth film by Robert Bresson (Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne) finds the director beginning to implement his stylistic philosophy as a filmmaker, stripping away all inessential elements from his compositions, the dialogue and the music, and exacting a purity of image and sound. The DVD also features an audio commentary by film historian Peter Cowie, deleted scenes and the trailer.
Diary of a Country Priest is the first masterpiece by the great Robert Bresson, a towering and slow-working figure in French cinema. Starkly adapted from a successful novel by Georges Bernanos, the film locks in to the mind of a sickly, ineffective young priest trapped in an unfriendly rural area. Bresson charts the priest's collapse with a series of brief scenes, a minimalist style that makes the slightest touch of a hand or far-off sound of a dog barking seem magnified in importance. (This is a movie that must be watched and listened to--it is not a casual experience.) Bresson's luminous portrait of faith and worldly humiliations takes on the intensity of a saint's notebook. In the central role is Claude Laydu, one of Bresson's early experiments with non-actors; his sad, open face is often in close-up, lighting our way into a world of private salvation. --Robert Horton
- New essay by film critic Frederic Bonnaud
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