UNDER SATAN'S SUN (1987) [Feature]

France (MIFF 1988 )
Director: Maurice Pialat

The controversial winner of last year's top prize at Cannes, the Palme d'Or for Best Film, Maurice Pialat courts critical and popular acrimony with each film intent on forging his own creative path in spite of current trends an biases. But the controversy must be considered carefully, perhaps even as a sign that, like the equally ostracised Robert Bresson, Pialat is that altogether rare creature in contemporary world cinema; an uncompromising original.

One thing remains absolutely unequivocal; all this sound and fury cannot signify anything other than genius, and Piaiat's Under Satan's Sun is the director's most provocative and accomplished work yet.

It is drawn from the work of Georges Bernanos - which should indicate it's darkness. The film concerns a priest, tortured by his own vision of the world and by the flesh, die focal point of the desires and obsessions of two characters at war with themselves and with the world.

Bonnaire plays Mouchette, a precocious 16 year old, pregnant by an impoverished nobleman and also mistress of a wealthy politician. She and Depardieu's priest meet during a long night when the priest has been sent to another parish. Exhausted and lost, he encounters a horse trader who first helps him, then plants a passionate kiss on his lips; the priest believes he's encountered Satan. Later, he encounters Mouchette, and has a vision in which he knows all about her...

The film unquestionably needs an attentive audience, ready to go along with it's long dialogue scenes, it's sudden shifts forward in time and it's complex contradictory characters. Not everyone will go for this discourse on good and evil, but there's no denying the quality of Pialat's work. In a national cinema seemingly obsessed with whimsy and gloss, he's one of the few French filmmakers who really matter.

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