Fr Peter Malone MSC has reviewed films for Catholic media for 52 years. His latest book, Dear Movies, is a love letter to the cinema as a window on the world, writes Fr Richard Leonard SJ. Source: ACOFB.
In Dear Movies, Fr Malone writes letters to 102 movies, starting with his introduction to the cinema: Anna Karenina in 1948. The letter device works well, each one approximately 1,000 words.
It is not a book recommending films that Christians should watch. There are some titles here that some people would baulk at: Bad Lieutenant, Salo, Django Unchained, Life of Brian, Godfather and The Devils, while there are other films we might expect a priest reviewer to include: Jesus, The Nun’s Story, The Mission, Of Gods and Men, Babette’s Feast, Bruce Almighty, Jesus of Montreal, Priest, Calvary and Sister Act.
The rest of the films are as individual and idiosyncratic as any personal selection is going to be. The choice has been made because of what they have evoked in Fr Malone, meant to him at the time, or how they charted a shift in his take on the world.
I have seen 55 of the films Fr Malone presents in Dear Movies. While he often fills in enough of the details of the films I had not seen for me to enjoy his engagement with them, I wonder if a very short synopsis of each film would have enhanced the work even more. Even so, the capsules are easy to read, insightful and engaging.
On a deeper level this work establishes a dialogue between faith and culture in an increasingly secular world. Dear Movies is a bridge between implicit and profound faith, and the work of visual artists over the last 72 years.
Fr Richard Leonard SJ has been a friend and colleague of Fr Peter Malone since 1994. He is the author of 'Movies That Matter: Reading Film Through the Lens of Faith', and 'The Mystical Gaze of the Cinema: the Films of Peter Weir'.