Sog.: dal romanzo La religiosa di Denis Diderot. Scen.: Jacques Rivette, Jean Gruault. F.: Alain Levent. M.: Denise de Casabianca. Mus.: Jean-Claude Eloy. Int.: Anna Karina (Suzanne Simonin), Liselotte Pulver (madre de Chelles), Micheline Presle (madre de Moni), Francine Bergé (suor Sainte Christine), Christiane Lénier (signora Simonin), Francisco Rabal (don Morel), Wolfgang Reichmann (padre Lemoine), Catherine Diamant (suor Sainte Cécile), Yori Bertin (suor Sainte Thérèse), Jean Martin (signor Hébert). Prod.: Rome-Paris Films, SNC – Société Nouvelle de Cinématographie, Reggane Films, Les Productions Georges de Beauregard. DCP. D.: 135’. Col.
In 1965, the announcement of a film adaptation of La Religieuse by Denis Diderot disturbs the conservative part of the population. The book relates the confinement of a young girl in a convent, prey of sadistic or sapphic Mother Superiors. A petition campaign is initiated by former students of Catholic schools to stop this project. The Minister of Information, Alain Peyrefitte, as well as Yvonne de Gaulle, the wife of the Head of State, are overwhelmed by letters from the clergy and from Parent Associations of catholic education. […]
Completed despite those hostilities, […] the film, re-titled Suzanne Simonin, la religieuse de Diderot in order not to seem to defame anyone, is the target of convictions, the subject of heated debates at the Assembly. In March 1966, it obtains the authorization to be released in theatres, with an 18-rating, but the Secretary of State, Yvon Bourges, disregards the Supervisory Commission and blocks the release, on grounds of disturbing the public order, triggering a virulent press backlash. […] Jean-Luc Godard challenges the Minister of ‘Kultur’ André Malraux […]. Malraux breaks with the government and authorizes the film to represent France at the Cannes Film Festival, where it is applauded. Thanks to a new minister, Georges Gorse, it is finally screened in 1967 with an 18-rating: 165,000 spectators rush to see it in five weeks, attracted by the publicity from the controversies.
I’m not so sure, dear André Malraux, that you understand anything about this letter. But as you are the only Gaullist I know; my anger must fall on you.
And after all, that’s good. Being a filmmaker like others are Jewish or black, I have started to get tired of going to see you all the time and asking you to intercede with your friends Roger Frey and Georges Pompidou to get the grace of a film sentenced to death by censorship, this Gestapo of the mind. But Jesus Christ, I really did not think I had to do it for your brother, Diderot, a journalist and a writer like you, and his Nun, my sister… […]
If it were not terribly sinister, it would be prodigiously beautiful and moving to see a UNR minister in 1966 being afraid of an encyclopedic spirit from 1789… No surprise you no longer recognize my voice when I refer to the prohibition of Suzanne Simonin, la religieuse de Diderot, as an assassination. No. No surprise in this deep cowardice. You act like an ostrich with your inner memories. How, then, could you hear me, André Malraux, who call you from outside, from a distant country, the free France?
Jean-Luc Godard, Open letter to André Malraux, “Le Nouvel Observateur”, May 6th 1966