Dir. Jean-Pierre Melville, France, 1961, 128 min., b&w, French w/ English subtitles
Jean-Pierre Melville Centennial (1917-2017)
“Religion is the opiate of the people,” begins the confession of jaded Communist widow Barny (Emmanuelle Riva) in Melville’s adaptation of Béatrix Beck’s autobiographical novel. Relocated to a drab little village during the Occupation, her boredom has led to provoking the local clergy. But when her confessor dryly replies “Pas exactement,” Barny begins a seemingly inexorable turn towards God — or perhaps towards her handsome confessor. Fresh from the success of Breathless, Jean-Paul Belmondo was cast as the titular character despite his initial reluctance fearing it would undermine his newfound status as a sex symbol.
This restoration of Melville’s never-before-seen director’s cut puts back 11 minutes excised from the original release version.