Léon Morin, prêtre (Léon Morin, Priest). 1961. France. Directed by Jean-Pierre Melville. In French, English subtitles. 117 min.
Screenplay by Melville, from the novel by Béatrix Beck. With Jean-Paul Belmondo, Emmanuelle Riva, Nicole Mirel. In occupied France, the widow of a Communist resistant (Emmanuelle Riva), who has been forced to send her half-Jewish daughter into hiding, is further troubled by her powerful attraction to her female boss (Nicole Mirel) and her dying faith in God. Comfort comes in the unexpected form of a young Catholic priest (Jean-Paul Belmondo), whose attempts to rekindle the widow’s faith stir other awakenings as well. Melville’s film places two newly minted stars of the French New Wave in a spare, classical context, charged with suppressed eroticism. Riva, familiar to contemporary audiences for Michael Haneke’s Amour, creates a strikingly complex character for a director not usually known for his characterizations of women.