Leon Morin, Priest

Director: Jean-Pierre Melville

France-Italy| 1961. English subtitles. Black and white. 114 mins

For his second film about occupied France and his first mainstream venture, Melville turned to Beatrix Beck’s autobiographical novel and two hot New Wave stars, Emmanuele Riva (Hiroshime, mon amour) and Jean-Paul Belmondo (Ë bout de souffle/Breathless). Riva plays Barny, an atheist widow who falls in love with Belmondo’s handsome, radical young priest, who’s fully aware of his power over her. Melville charts the couple’s personal and religious relationship against an evocative rendering of troubled times. A box-office and critical hit, this is the nearest Melville came to making a ‘woman’s film’, even though it’s Belmondo’s erotically-charged performance that dominates.

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