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"Le Curé d'Ars": Missing French Classic

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"Le Curé d'Ars": Missing French Classic

Old 02-27-04, 08:39 AM
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"Le Curé d'Ars": Missing French Classic

I was looking into Catholic Church-sanctioned religious cinema in the wake of Mel Gibson's "sacred snuff film" and remembered a French film masterpiece of the 40's or 50's about the patron saint of curates, St. Jean Vianney (1786-1859), the celebrated "curé d'Ars" who performed miracles, had a gift of prophecy and had daily conversations with the devil (whom he called "le grappin").

This film was presented regularly on the French CBC (Radio-Canada) TV network during my formative years (the fifties). It is clearly a masterpiece of the cinema in all aspects: photography, interpretation, realism, historical recreation, tactful, "secular" handling of a difficult subject. (My boss assures me it was shot before WWII.)

It was also an important element of the Catholic Church's multimedia propaganda arsenal against godless Communism during the Cold War.

Today, this film seems to have completely slipped through the cracks of oblivion and indifference, although its supernatural elements alone (the eerie presence of the devil) should surely have saved it for posterity as a classic of fantastic cinema.

I would appreciate any information on this film. Even its official title would help. It does not appear in any search key on the IMBb. I have tried: Jean Vianney, curé d'Ars, religious biography, devil, grappin, saint, etc. I have already written to religious organizations in France.

I assumed the role of the saint was played by Pierre Fresnay who has appeared saintly in numerous French films ("Il est minuit, docteur Schweitzer", "Dieu a besoin des hommes", "Monsieur Fabre", "Monsieur Vinvent", etc., not to mention the supernatural "The Devil's Hand") but apparently it was played by somebody else.

The title was either "Le Curé d'Ars" or "Le Grappin" and then again, maybe not. Does anyone remember?

Last edited by baracine; 02-27-04 at 12:14 PM.
Old 02-27-04, 02:10 PM
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I don't know if this makes it more contemporary but quite a few sources credit the life of Jean Vianney as the inspiration for Georges Bernanos' first novel, which in turned became Pialat's film "Under Satan's Sun" (Sous le Soleil de Satan, 1987) with Gérard Depardieu.

Last edited by baracine; 03-02-04 at 07:53 AM.
Old 03-01-04, 01:14 PM
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Mystery Solved!

Thanks to the the good people at the Sanctuaire d'Ars, a French congregation consecrated to the memory of St. Jean Vianney, I have found the name of the film. It's Le Sorcier du ciel (Heaven's Sorcerer) (1948) by Marcel Blistène and starring Alexandre Rignault in the title role.

Here is the IMDb link:
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0197908/combined

The Sanctuaire complains that this film has not been available for projection for years. Needless to say it is not available in any format. It has no official distributor. Marcel Blistène is most famous for staging the "ultimate Edith Piaf musical", Étoile sans lumière (1946). Alexandre Rignault is a character actor who has had a long and varied career and has appeared in many other French classics. The film also stars Dora Doll, who was a perpetual starlet of the time.

I have found an Italian site that implies that it is still shown on Italian television under its Italian title "Il Paese senza Dio" (The Godless Country - probably meaning France after the Revolution).

I also found an essay by Henri Agel ("Le cinéma a-t-il un âme?" - Does cinema have a soul? - , 1952) that mentions it in passing as the kind of film that has had a great effect on believers and non-believers alike but which appears somewhat lacking in the eyes of film critics. He compares it in that respect to John Ford's The Fugitive (1947, based of Graham Greene's "The Power and the Glory", French title: "Dieu est mort" - God id Dead) and to Henry King's Song of Bernadette (1943).

Agel's excerpt (in French):
http://pages.infinit.net/biblisem/citation/agelame.htm

Last edited by baracine; 03-02-04 at 02:57 PM.
Old 03-01-04, 06:31 PM
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Interesting post...
Old 03-01-04, 07:09 PM
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Originally posted by DVD Smurf
Interesting post...
"I do what I can." (Danilo, "The Merry Widow", American translation, end of Act I)

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