LEON MORIN, PRIEST is not the first film that pops into one’s mind when discussing the life and career of iconic auteur Jean-Pierre Melville. Best known for films like LE CERCLE ROUGE, ARMY OF SHADOWS, and LE SAMOURAI, Melville is one of cinema’s most beloved directors, and also one of its most influential. Thirteen features to his name (as well as one short), Melville was quite prolific over his career which spanned from the 1946 release of his short, VINGT-QUATRE HEURES DE LA VIE D’UN CLOWN until 1972 with the release of UN FLIC. LEON MORIN, PRIEST is one film that has seemed to have been forgotten when having discussions of Melville’s career. However, thanks to The Criterion Collection, we now have a crisp and beautiful Blu-ray of this absolute masterpiece.
Set during WWII, LEON MORIN follows a young widow, Barny, who must deal with her new ound love for her gorgeous boss, Sabine. Just one of a handful of conflicts the atheist Barny must deal with, she begins to spark a relationship with an attractive young priest, Leon Morin, and begins to converse with both faith (she feels as though baptizing her daughter will save her) as well as God almighty himself.
Led by Jean-Paul Belmondo in a role seemingly birthed for him, the film may not be as strong or as iconic as Melville’s crime pictures, but it’s no less affecting, and no less intriguing. (more...)