L’AINE DES FERCHAUX (Jean-Pierre Melville, 1963)

Dieudonné Ferchaux (Charles Vanel, excellent as usual) is a Parisian banker an imminent investigation of whose corrupt dealings has him taking off for the U.S., accompanied by a newly hired secretary, an ex-boxer beautifully played by Jean-Paul Belmondo. The boy’s voiceover has him introducing himself as Michel Maudet, but adding, “At least you can call […]

LEON MORIN, PRIEST (Jean-Pierre Melville, 1961)

Because of its religious material, an inheritance from the autobiographical novel by Béatrix Beck on which it is based, Jean-Pierre Melville, an atheist, disparaged one of his most beautiful films, Léon Morin, prêtre—like his first film, Le silence de la mer (1947), set in a small town during the German occupation.      The central character is […]

LES ENFANTS TERRIBLES (Jean-Pierre Melville, 1949)

Why didn’t Jean Cocteau direct this adaptation of his novel? We hear Cocteau’s voiceover throughout. The shading and framing of the early overhead shot of schoolboys engaged in a snowball fight suggests we are glimpsing this outdoor scene through a gigantic keyhole, and this of course reminds us of Cocteau’s Blood of a Poet (1930)—as […]

ARMY OF THE SHADOWS (Jean-Pierre Melville, 1969)

Jean-Pierre Melville, born Grumbach, was a member of the Resistance during the Occupation of France. Three wonderful films of his address this period during the Second World War: The Silence of the Sea (1947), Leon Morin, Priest (1961) and L’armée des ombres—although his film noirs also refer, symbolically, to the Resistance. Joseph Kessel, the author […]