Monday, July 9, 2012

Leon Morin, Priest

Many of Jean-Pierre Melville's films revolve around the criminal underworld or simply people who go against what the government wants. The characters usually have no feelings for society or other people, sort of like the director himself.

However, his film Leon Morin, Priest is different from Army of Shadows or Le samourai. The film revolves around the one thing the characters in Melville's other films would merely scoff: religion. And like many films about religion, Leon Morin, Priest focuses on an individual wrought by a sort of religious belief.

In this case, the individual is Barny (Emmanuelle Riva), a widow with a young daughter. She finds solace in the teachings of Father Morin (Jean-Paul Belmondo). However, as time wears on, she becomes less concerned about the teachings and more about Father Morin.

Leon Morin, Priest is not afraid to show emotion unlike Melville's other more aloof films. It's also different because the main protagonist is female rather than a chauvinistic male. It's really a far cry from anything Melville would later do; that's what makes it stands out.

Leon Morin, Priest is a very compelling film to watch. In less than two hours, the viewer watches a woman go from non-believer to witness to of a vision to God fearing. And Riva makes this performance her own. Belmondo, famous for his nonchalant role in Breathless, gives an equally transfixing performance. And Melville shows he can do more than American-influenced crime films.

My Rating: *****

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