Thursday, July 15, 2010


Léon Morin, prêtre is not one of Melvilles's gangster movies. The story takes place in a village in occupied France during the Second World War. We follow the growing friendship between a young widow and a priest. Visually the film is a lot stronger than Bob le Flambeur, with beautiful black and white photography. It's shot in a classic style, but with a couple of jump cuts.
Melville is known for doing masculine, even misogynist, movies, but here the story is seen from the point of view of the woman, and it's a sympathetic, convincing portrait.
Jean-Paul Belmondo and Emanuelle Riva make a nice couple, but of course it can't be since he's a Catholic priest, and the last image in the film is pretty heartbreaking. Eventually, though, I found it to be a movie that is easier to admire than to actually like.

Le Doulos, now that's more like it! It's a return to the gangsters. It has a great, atmospheric opening, with a very effective introduction of the two main characters, Serge Reggiani as Maurice, a thief out of prison, and Jean-Paul Belmondo as Silien, a possible police informant.
There's a heist, as usual. It goes wrong, as usual. Maurice is wounded but manages to get away, and is certain that Silien is the one who gave him up. The rest of the story is about finding out what really happened, and of course it ends in tragedy.
Bemondo is great in his part, and Reggiani has one of those melancoly, beat down faces that always look good on film. As in Bob le Flambeur, the gangsters walk around in trenchcoats and fedoras. They even drive in American cars. Melville is clearly influenced by American film noir, but creates something a bit different, with a more European pessimism. And ah!, the last shot in the film must have been an inspiration for the Coen brothers in their gangster film, Miller's Crossing.

Next: Army of Shadows, with Lino Ventura.

1 comment: