Saturday, 7 August 2010

Journal d'un curé de campagne

Diary of a Country Priest is a French film directed by Robert Breson in 1951.

Plot summary: A new, young priest has a parish in a village in rural France. They don't like him. He isn't very well. His diet consists of bread soaked in wine. He rides a bicycle. He writes a diary that makes this blog look exciting.

I felt that the film had nothing going for it, unless you can relate to a priest or something. The plot was boring and revolved around religious droning. If I meet someone I don't like I'll recommend the novel to them. This apparently had a big impact and influenced Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver, which is a fantastic film: the protagonist, the aura you get from the city, the grime, the filth, the debatable justice...

The priest is quite an alienated character, that's about the only comparison to Travis(?) in Taxi Driver. It does make sense. Scorsese's supposedly always had Catholic themes going on in his work, which is probably the reason I'm not wild about his stuff. Italian mobsters, guilt, Catholicism? It's like you've got to be Catholic Italian-American from the 60's to even appreciate it. Have you got to be a religious Frenchman from the 40's living in a little village to appreciate this film?

He ends up being blamed for offending some woman, and something disastrous happens. Of course, you don't feel the disaster, the film doesn't garner any sort of emotional response from you. It's not subtle. It just makes everything as dull as possible and for 1951 you'd think that the little bits of "oh so sad" music were so clichéd for the time, and the whole mannerism of the film just felt fake.

The character alone just didn't offer any form of accessibility. You didn't give a damn about him either way. You felt nothing towards him. There was nothing at all I could enjoy or even respect from it. The priest was actually quite an annoying character (which he wasn't meant to be, surely?). His voice and his acting was really soppy. So soppy it wasn't authentic enough for me to warrant the film any worth as far as acting goes. The cinematography was average. Stretching my knowledge here but there were no beautiful shots, no engrossing long takes, complete lack of any type of beauty.. nothing that was of any artistic merit that you can achieve with a camera. It's that black and white film you would of caught on T.V as a child and quickly turned over from, wondering how all those oldies actually get any enjoyment out of it. That mentality I had then still remains the case today with this film. I wish I had that mentality. This film is about 2 hours long. You should sympathise for me rather than the priest.

I think it narrows down to the plot being too limiting. If you have a limited plot and have confined the whole thing to take place in a little village, you could work on that: show the beauty of the scenery, the people at work, the children playing, the church, the architecture of the village, anything.. but there was nothing. Was it supposed to be cultural? If it was, that was all in the dialogue which 75% was some soppy priest writing diary entries. Even the droning lacked substance. I can take religious themed films; The Seventh Seal was good. Out of anything that actually formed a entity within this film was the introspective account of the 'protagonists' hardships. I suppose this is probably considered profound. Perhaps it is in the book. Or perhaps the dialogue in this film by a highly rated directer like Robert Bresson was true to the book. When it comes to any profound messages perhaps I am required to consume as much wine as the priest did in the film to agree with the film critics who would claim so.

However, whilst I've hopefully made this sound like the most boring film in existence, there is something within that introspection, what the priest is feeling, the way the people are treating him, and probably something about the loss of faith, and how people blame God for their misery. This film won some pretty hefty awards at the time. You can imagine what award I'd present, right?

A famous quote from the end of the film, which is Martin Scorsese's favourite:
"God is not a torturer"
I agree, but I can tell you what is!

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