Directed by: Robert Bresson
Starring: Claude Laydu, Jean Riveyre, Adrien Borel, Rachel Bérendt, Nicole Maurey
Like all of Robert Bresson’s work, appreciation of Diary of a Country Priest (1951) comes down to a matter of taste. It’s the kind of spare, slow cinema that is easier to admire than it is to actually enjoy. The film—based on a novel by Georges Bernanos—tells the story of a priest (Claude Laydu) who comes to take over a parish that has, by all evidence, thoroughly gone to seed. This is a cruel, unfriendly place and an almost impossible one for the naive young priest—especially, since the man is also sick. As you can tell from that setup, this isn’t exactly a happy movie—and that should be borne in mind. This is a film about faith and suffering, and also the lack of faith. It’s about a man who appears to be determined to martyr himself, and about the people he seems to be incapable of helping. Ironically, his one success with reaching another human being through his faith will be instrumental in his own undoing. It’s all pretty powerful stuff, but it’s definitely for specialized tastes.
Classic World Cinema by Courtyard Gallery will present Diary of a Country Priest at 8 p.m. Friday, August 5, at Phil Mechanic Studios, 109 Roberts St., River Arts District (upstairs in the Railroad Library). Info: 273-3332, www.ashevillecourtyard.com