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.
Dir: Jean-Pierre Melville
Based on the popular Vercors novel about occupied France, director Jean-Pierre Melville’s feature debut is largely set in a French home commandeered by the Nazis for one of their officers (Howard Vernon). The uncle (Jean-Marie Robain) and niece (Nicole Stéphane) who live there cooperate grudgingly, refusing to speak to their German guest, though over time his friendly overtures have their effect. Made outside the French studio system on a shoestring budget with extensive use of location shooting and natural light, this involving drama helped plant seeds that would later blossom as the French New Wave.
“When men, even unknowingly, are to meet one day, whatever may befall each, whatever the diverging paths, on the said day, they will inevitably come together in the red circle.” The three men brought together in this taut crime thriller are recent parolee Alain Delon, escaped prisoner Gian Maria Volontè and ex-cop Yves Montand, who together target a Paris jewellery shop (in a bravura heist sequence to rival RIFIFI’s) while on the run from both the police and a local gangster.