11 August 2018

STUDIOCANAL'S VINTAGE WORLD CINEMA PRESENTS JACQUES RIVETTE'S BANNED FILM: THE NUN. (1966) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS.




THE NUN. (1966) DIRECTED BY JACQUES RIVETTE. BASED ON THE NOVEL 'LA RELIGIEUSE' BY DENIS DIDEROT. STARRING ANNA KARINA, MICHELINE PRESLE, FRANCINE BERGE, LISELOTTE PULVER AND CHRISTIANE LENIER.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

FOR THE FIRST TIME ON
DVD, BLU-RAY AND EST 17 SEPTEMBER
COURTESY OF STUDIOCANAL:
VINTAGE WORLD CINEMA EDITION!

This French language film by French New Wave director Jacques Rivette has a lot of back-story. It's based on the novel by prolific French philosopher, art critic and writer Denis Diderot, who was a prominent figure in the Enlightenment. (Note to self: google 'the Enlightenment...!')

Rivette first directed the story as a three-hour-long play, with Anna Karina, the wife of his contemporary and friend Jean-Luc Godard, as his leading lady. It ran for a month in 1963, was a financial flop but received good reviews, if you can understand how that works, the good reviews being especially for the beautiful leading lady. 

In 1966, Rivette finally got to make his movie, which got itself banned for a time because of its unflattering depiction of religious life. Not to mention his portrayal of nuns themselves, from the lowliest novice to the Mother Superior, as superstitious, judgemental sex-mad harpies who aren't fit to flagellate themselves raw in the name of The Man Upstairs, as my dear old granny used to call him. She'd only ever talk in terrified whispers of The Man Below, lol.

Recently in UK cinemas for the first time since its original release in 1966, the film is two-and-a-quarter hours long- not much shorter than the play, so!- and it still watches somewhat like a play, albeit a gorgeous, sumptuous-looking one.

You can almost imagine the locations as being beautifully-decorated sets and the actors as reciting their lines on a stage. It's a bit stilted, yes, and, doesn't seem terribly realistic or believable at times (just like a play, lol!), but I still enjoyed it well enough, despite my initial disappointment on discovering exactly why it was banned.

Yes readers, when I realised I was watching a once-banned French film called THE NUN, I was expecting sexy lesbian nuns cavorting naked with each other and the visiting priests as if there were no tomorrow. Sex and whipping and sado-masochism and blasphemy and self-pleasuring with crucifixes to beat the band, in other words. Alas, except for some mild implied lesbianism, it's not that kind of film. 

Neither is it in any way affiliated, I believe, with the James Wan film of the same name which is due for its cinematic release on September 7th of this year. It'll be a spin-off of THE CONJURING 2 and will be the fifth instalment overall of THE CONJURING franchise. I don't even care if it's good, bad or indifferent, I just really need to see another new one of these films!

Anyway, the 1966 film is the story of a beautiful young woman called Suzanne Simonin living in France in about the mid-1700s, who essentially has four mothers and no daddy. FOUR MOTHERS AND NO DADDY; couldn't you just imagine there being a shit romantic comedy in there somewhere starring Vince Vaughn and Jennifer Aniston?

Let me explain. When we first meet Suzanne, she is being forced to enter the local convent to become a nun against her will. She causes such a public scene that her outraged, coldly furious parents are obliged to take her home, where she is locked up for several months until she agrees to join the convent as arranged, and for real this time. No messing about.

I don't blame Suzanne at all for not wanting to join the convent. She's adamant that she has no vocation whatsoever, and even the religious folks themselves agree that it's a mistake to enter this life unless you have one of these.

Suzanne presumably wants to laugh and love and live her life as a wife and mother like other girls her age get to do. She doesn't want to be walled up alive in the convent, devoting the next maybe seventy years of her life- nuns live really long, probably because they don't have any kids to give 'em prematurely grey hairs!- to a God she believes in but doesn't want to spend every minute of every day thinking about. 

That seems totally fair to me. I mean, being forced into marriage is bad enough but at least most women do want to marry at some point and have children. Being forced into a convent, where you live for all time without sex or the love of a man or the joy- and hard work!- of having kiddies would be almost like a death sentence for some women. That's what it's like for Suzanne Simonin. 

So why is it so all-fired imperative that Suzanne take the hated vows? Well, her parents have already married off two daughters with dowries and now they can't afford to give Suzanne the same treatment. Well, that's pretty shit but there's even more to it than that.

Suzanne's mother has a really nasty, unfair reason for wanting Suzanne locked away behind the convent walls but I won't let that slip, I think. It can be a surprise for you guys but just let me say that I think that Suzanne's mother is a cold, selfish unfeeling bitch who has no right to take it out on Suzanne for something Suzanne's not even bloody well responsible for.

A small dowry is cobbled together to give to the convent (oh, they have enough dosh for THAT then, do they, the tight feckers!) and, Bob's your Uncle, Suzanne is a nun for life. She will never stop railing against the unfairness of her incarceration and this will cause her many problems in the convent. If you're not there willingly, how could you possibly be expected to settle into the life?

Over the course of her enforced religious life, she will have three Mother Superiors, three of the mothers referred to in my little earlier description of the film. One will be kind and loving but unfortunately short-lived. One will be cold, cruel and punitive just like Suzanne's birth-mother and one will be oddly frivolous, mercurial in temperament and relentlessly horny for Suzanne's nubile young form. Don't get excited, lol, the most bare female flesh you get to see in the film is one glimpse of shoulder and that's that.

Suzanne will also encounter a horny-under-his-stern-exterior Father Confessor and a brothel madam, neither of whom would probably bother with Suzanne if she weren't drop-dead gorgeous and wearing a full face of make-up in every scene, lol.

I find it interesting that all the men to whom Suzanne appeals for help to get her out from under her hateful enforced vows give her a more than fair hearing and the benefit of the doubt on every occasion, despite the film's being set in an era when women were pretty much less than dirt beneath men's feet.

Those were the awful days, after all, when men in different countries were burning witches and torturing those females believed to be possessed by the devil. (Suzanne is believed by her nasty Mother Superior to be in need of a good exorcist at one point.)

I can only put Suzanne's extraordinary success in winning over the minds and hearts of the men in power in the film down to her fabulous beauty. These guys mightn't have been so quick to save a hideous old crone from the pointy instruments of the Inquisitor or Exorcist, that's all I'm saying. There aren't any Inquisitors in the film, by the way, so don't get your hopes up. I'm just saying that it was the era for that type of thing.

This is a bad era for women, though. A young girl at the mercy of and in the care of her parents, older brother, Uncle and Aunt or even husband could be deemed mad at any time and put away in an asylum for life or, as in Suzanne's case, the local convent, where her guardians would never have to be bothered by her again. It's a chilling, saddening thought. Ah well. Not to be a Debbie Downer or anything but such was ever woman's lot.

The film is lovely to look at, a good picture of the religious life in France at the time, if a bit slow-moving and frustrating at times. I was constantly wondering when we were gonna get to the good stuff, the banned bits, lol. If I'd known not to expect anything spectacular in that direction, I might have enjoyed the film a bit more.

As it is, I've done you guys a big favour by telling ye not to expect any naked raging orgies or whatnot. Now ye can relax into the film like I wasn't really able to. Don't say I never do anything for ye...!
FOR THE FIRST TIME ON
DVD, BLU-RAY AND EST 17 SEPTEMBER
COURTESY OF STUDIOCANAL:
VINTAGE WORLD CINEMA EDITION!
Jacques Rivette (1928 – 2016) was a French film director and film critic, known for his contributions to the French New Wave and the influential magazine (dubbed the ‘instrument of combat’ of the New Wave) Cahiers du CinĂ©ma, of which he was editor throughout the first half of the 1960s. Extremely prolific throughout his career, Rivette made twenty-nine films, best known among them L’amour fou (1969), Out 1 (1971) and La Belle Noiseuse (1991).

About STUDIOCANAL

STUDIOCANAL, a 100% affiliate of Vivendi’s CANAL+ Group, is Europe’s leader in production, rights acquisition, distribution and international sales of feature films and TV series, operating directly in all three major European markets, France, the United Kingdom and Germany, as well as in Australia and New Zealand.

STUDIOCANAL owns one of the most important film libraries in the world, boasting 6,500 feature films, including the iconic Terminator 2, The Third Man, The Ealing Comedies, Mulholland Drive, Breathless and Belle de Jour.

VINTAGE WORLD CINEMA

Open your eyes to a new world of film with the Vintage World Cinema collection. Discover and enjoy classic, iconic films from around
the globe, all stunningly restored with brand new bonus content.

About Independent Cinema Office (ICO)

Independent Cinema Office (ICO) is the national organisation for development and support of independent film exhibition in the UK. We exist to bring a wider range of films to a wider range of audiences. Activities include training, film programming, distribution, advice and consultancy.  Since 2003 ICO have booked 26,000 films, trained over 1000 professionals from 635 organisations, distributed 235 films and achieved audience figures of over 6 million.


AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger, poet and book-and-movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens' fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra's books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

 You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

http://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com








No comments:

Post a comment