LÉON MORIN, PRIEST
1961, Rialto Pictures, 117 min, France/Italy, Dir: Jean-Pierre Melville

In a French Alps village during WWII, widowed mother Barny (Emmanuelle Riva) walks into a confessional, but not as a believer; a communist and atheist, she is more concerned about the welfare of her daughter during the occupation. The priest she speaks to, Léon Morin (Jean-Paul Belmondo, wonderfully cast against type), proves exceptionally insightful, and as they begin to have philosophical conversations outside of church, she feels a growing attraction to the young man. Beautifully shot by cinematographer Henri Decaë, this is among the most thoughtful examinations of faith and its challenges ever made.


LE DOULOS
THE FINGERMAN
1962, Rialto Pictures, 108 min, France/Italy, Dir: Jean-Pierre Melville

Director Jean-Pierre Melville met actor Jean-Paul Belmondo during Melville's brief cameo in Godard’s BREATHLESS - here, he gives Belmondo one of his best roles, that of a two-faced informer caught between the police and his “old pal,” played by doom-faced Serge Reggiani. “It was only when LE DOULOS was finished and Belmondo saw himself on the screen that he realized, with great astonishment, ‘Christ! The stoolie is me!’” - Melville.


CLASSE TOUS RISQUES
THE BIG RISK
1959, Rialto Films, 110 min, France/Italy, Dir: Claude Sautet

Lino Ventura delivers an awesome performance (maybe his best) as Davos, a gangster in the twilight of his career, on the run from the mob with his wife and family. Jean-Paul Belmondo (hot off his star turn in BREATHLESS) co-stars as a young hood who comes to Ventura’s aid. Brilliantly scripted by Jose Giovanni, based on a story he had heard in prison. “In addition to its crisp action sequences, the film has an excellent sense of place, showing us Paris, Nice and the small villages and French countryside between. … One of the things that makes CLASSE TOUS RISQUES distinctive are the palpable emotional connections it makes with its characters. Though he is the hardest of hard cases, Davos cares deeply about his family, and the feelings of regret, sadness and desperation that cross his face are just one of the factors that make this film the classic it is.” - Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times. In French with English subtitles.


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