5. “Diary of a Country Priest”, Robert Bresson (1951)

Part of The 100 Greatest Movies I’ve Ever Seen list.


Diary of the Country Priest aka Journal d’un curé de campagne

dir. Robert Bresson scr. Robert Bresson based on the novel by Georges Bernanos cin. Leonce-Henri Burel with Claude Laydu, Jean Riveyre, Andre Guilbert, Adrien Borel, Rachel Berendt, Nicole Maurey, Nicole Ladmiral

In 100 words: Bresson’s greatest movie will wallop you with its simplicity and generosity to this priest who has suffered a stirring crisis of faith. But its simplicity reveals such a depth that few films can match: Bresson has tremendous visuals, like Chantal’s unforgettable confession, or the priest being always behind bars, a constant reminder of his spiritual and physical imprisonment, and sense of editing, abruptly cutting away from scenes that have strong emotions, until a few choice moments. His powerful technique brings out the quiet grace and serenity that this material possesses, aided tremendously by Laydu’s perfect performance. All is grace indeed.

Other Movies for Context: Bresson’s admirers are numerous, which belie the simplicity of his technique but the majesty of his films. Pickpocket and A Man Escaped are my two other favorite movies by him, because I love the choreography of his characters and how he portrays them. I wasn’t particularly fond of either Au Hasard Balthazar and L’Argent.


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