Apparently the centre of considerable controversy when it was made, The Puritan still looks cogently argued and provocative. Based on a novel by Liam O'Flaherty, it's basically the old chestnut about puritanism masking an inferno of repressed lusts. What makes it interesting is partly Barrault's terrific performance as the moral vigilante who kills a girl and clumsily tries to frame her lover; and partly the plotting, which leaves the police in no doubt about Barrault's guilt from the start, and allows Barrault to understand his own problems as the effect of his crime sinks in. The result is a rather well-crafted study of a pathetic figure who achieves personal freedom only at the moment that the cell door closes on him. Musso isn't another Buñuel, and nobody could consider the film especially subversive; but its fundamental intelligence is nicely complemented by the warmth of Musso's feeling for his characters, especially in the low-life bars and clubs.
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