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France, 1970 (MIFF 1971, Programme 10)

Director: Georges Franju

The Abbe Serge Mouret, a chaste and pious young priest, devoting himself to the exhausting labours of his calling, succumbs to ill-health. A chance meeting with his uncle, Dr. Pascal, brings the Abbe briefly into contact with an old eccentric, Jeanbenaut, an unbeliever, and Albine, a beautiful girl of sixteen, whose appearance brings forth visions of the Virgin Mary.

Following a mystical crisis of painful intensity, the Abbe faints. Regaining consciousness several weeks later, he discovers that Albine has cared for him all this time with infinite love and devotion. The fever has led to a loss of memory and the Abbe finds himself giving way to the love that draws him irresistibly to Albine.

Georges Franjou is sometimes described as a New Wave director, having made his first film a year after Resnais' Van Gogh. In many ways, however, he is a film-maker of an older generation.

Born in 1912, he studied theatre decor, but his overriding passion was the cinema, and in 1934 he collaborated with Henri Langlois in a series of ventures that included the first programme of their “Cercle du Cinema”, followed by a short film, and in 1937 they inaugurated a short-lived film magazine.

In the same year they also founded the Cinematheque Francaise.

His Les sang des betes established him as one of the cinema's most sensitive and subversive artists.

In 1959 he made the first of the features which were to develop the same disturbing characteristics through fictional forms. His most important recent films, all shown at previous Melbourne Film Festivals, are: Therese Desqueyroux, Judex, and Thomas l'imposteur.

Franju manages to be true to Zola's naturalism and social concern but gives it a filmic transcription that illuminates poetic and even expressionistic crannies in the work of the great battler for causes.

... a measured, yet hypnotic film, played with fragility and romantic elan by Francis Huster, a newcomer who should be heard from, as the youthful priest, and with radiant innocence by Gillian Hills as the girl.

Mosk in Variety

See also...


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