Léon Morin, Priest

In 1961, resolved to break with his image as a cult director “known only to a handful of crazy film buffs,” director Jean-Pierre Melville signed on to adapt Léon Morin, Priest, Béatrix Beck’s acclaimed roman à clef about her life in a French provincial village during and just after the Occupation. Melville chose the ravishing Emmanuelle Riva (fresh off Hiroshima Mon Amour) to play Beck’s surrogate, an atheistic widow who, on a whim, saunters into the local church with the goal of making a mockery of the place. Rather than taking offense at Riva’s outré claims, Morin (Jean-Paul Belmondo) offers her compassionate counsel and attempted conversion. If the movie seems an unusual project for an atheist Jew best known for his steely, stylized film noirs (Army of Shadows, Le Cercle Rouge, etc.), Morin is actually a prototypical Melville protagonist—an ascetic man of principle who, while tempted by the allure of a conventional life (and, in this case, the pleasures of the flesh), remains an incorruptible professional to the core. (NR) SCOTT FOUNDAS

July 23-29, 7 & 9:30 p.m., 2010

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