Léon Morin, Priest
The Criterion Collection
review by Zach B.
Running Time: 117 Minutes
Starring: Jean-Paul Belmondo, Emmanuelle Riva
Screenplay by: Jean-Pierre Melville
Based on the novel by: Béatrix Beck
Directed by: Jean-Pierre Melville
Retail Price: $39.95
Features: Jean-Pierre Melville and Jean-Paul Belmondo Interview, Selected-Scene Commentary by Film Scholar Ginette Vincendeau, Deleted Scenes, Original Theatrical Trailer
Specs: 1.66:1 Widescreen 1080p High Definition, French PCM Mono, English Subtitles, Chapters (23 Chapters)
Released: July 26th,
Léon Morin, Priest is
presented in a 1080p High Definition transfer, with the widescreen
of 1.66:1. For this release, Criterion digitally restored the film.
Keep in mind that the picture is 50 years old now, so it's not perfect
despite the clean-up: dirt pieces, scratches and blemishes are on the
print, but it's not as bad as you would expect. There is a bit of
shimmering at times, but largely, this is a sharp transfer that
features some great detail. The movie's black and white cinematography
is pretty well-refined, and the amount of grain — to showcase the
texture — is balanced well. Despite the film's age, this transfer does
have its pleasures.
Léon Morin, Priest features an uncompressed French Mono track. It
is a limited track, but everything comes in clear — and I did not
detect any hissing, audio scratches or other flaws. Dialogue is crisp,
the sound effects (be it typewriters or outside marching) sound fine
and the musical cues do have a little bit of power. This is simple and
English subtitles are included.
Leading things off is a Jean-Pierre Melville and Jean-Paul Belmondo Interview
that lasts almost 5 minutes. The director and actor talk about their
partnership and work on the film. This little bit is excerpted from the
French television program JT 19H15, and was originally broadcast in
Originally recorded for the British Film Institute, there is Selected-Scene Commentary by Film Scholar Ginette Vincendeau.
The scholar talks the viewer through chapters 1-2, 6-7 and 17-20 on the
disc. It may not run for the whole film, but Vincendeau is able to go
through quite a bit: French history, character motivations and how the
movie became a new pinpoint for Melville's style.
This is a treat: two Deleted Scenes from
the film, complete with text introductions to provide context. They
only run about four-and-a-half minutes in total, but are still worthy
of viewing. The Original Theatrical Trailer is also included, and the Criterion booklet has an essay by critic and novelist Gary Indiana, plus excerpts from Melville on Melville.
Léon Morin, Priest is
a riveting character piece with a serious backdrop from the famed
Jean-Pierre Melville. Criterion has delivered a very fine presentation
for this 50 year-old film, with a few small supplements to slightly
enhance context. Foreign film aficionados should not miss this one.