1959. Guilty of a double-murder, a man is beheaded. At the bottom of the basket that just welcomed it, the head of the dead man tells his story: everything was going so well. Admired priest...
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1959. Guilty of a double-murder, a man is beheaded. At the bottom of the basket that just welcomed it, the head of the dead man tells his story: everything was going so well. Admired priest, magnificient lover, his earthly paradise seemed to have no end.
Based on a true story ,that of the Abbé Guy Desnoyers(village of Uruffé): this priest was not guillotined -in spite of a hostile crowd - He was granted "extenuate circumstances " because it was actually his family (particularly his grandmother)who pressed him into becoming a priest whereas he did not really have a vocation .He had a life sentence .He ended his life in 2010 in a monastery.
The prologue is obviously inspired by José Giovanni's "Deux Hommes Dans La Ville" :its final scene showed,in lavish detail,the hero's execution,like Delon's in 1972.After his death ,the "head "tells us the whole story,like William Holden's corpse did in "sunset boulevard".
When he arrives ,the country landscapes seem to be some kind of "Heaven on Earth",a luminous land .From the beginning ,the hero plays a part : it's not a coincidence if he brings profane plays to the stage ,the likes of Hugo's "Ruy Blas" or "Macbeth" (and not Claudel or Racine's "Athalie" )An hedonist , he is the coach of the football team (but he does not abuse the young boys,he exclusively sets his heart on women) .Football is harmless and can reassure the daddies and keep them away : except for two priests ,there's only one man -an aging man who obviously cannot act in the priest's amateur company- in the whole movie.
The priest ( probably hypocritically) tries to justify his acts by recalling the Holy Writ: the beginning is the first chapter of the Bible ,the Genesis .Once his world has been created (man an woman included) ,he acts as though he is God Himself ,he repeats the original sin.The main objection of this movie: as we do not know the vicar's past - maybe nothing could explain his attitude but his lust for life and sex,so it's only natural he should get a death sentence.
At first, he seems to be a modern but serious priest whose speech dazzles woman;as it is only a way to seduce them,his priesthood weighs heavy on him and one scene in a confessional is a true comic relief.
But remnants of religion may make him heavy -hearted:hence the imitation of Jesus Christ(whose picture he keeps in his room) and his penance in the desert.However,there is always a way for cynicism : to get rid of the soon-to-be-born baby of the blind girl he got pregnant,the priest evokes Abraham's sacrifice and sarcastically adds "if God does not want it,he'll send his angel who'll stop my arm".
Great performance by Melvil Poupaud,a handsome snake crawling in his garden of Eden ,splendid cinematography ,and a hundred thanks to the director who did not feel compelled to include a song in English in his movie!
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