LE DEUXIEME SOUFFLE
SECOND BREATH
1966, Janus Films, 150 min, France, Dir: Jean-Pierre Melville

This riveting crime drama based on the novel by José Giovanni tells the story of a middle-aged hood (Lino Ventura) who breaks out of jail and organizes a new gang, determined to prove he still has the juice. Melville’s brutal, crackling noir contrasts Ventura’s “old-world craftsmanship” against the younger generation of Nouvelle Vague crooks. According to critic Tom Milne, the film “established Melville’s reputation as a brilliant refurbisher of the immemorial imagery of the genre - gleaming night streets, gunmen prowling in deserted stairways.”


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 SILENCE DE LA MER
1949, Janus Films, 88 min, France, 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.


Syndicate content