Summary: Novice Renée Faure tries to save murderess Jany Holt
"Les anges du péché" (1943) aka "Angels of Sin" is recognized as a noir by critics John Grant and Andrew Spicer. The story is mostly set within a convent, which is a most unusual setting for a noir.
Novice Renée Faure has just entered the convent, which regularly works with female convicts and even accepts them on a trial basis. Faure presses to visit the prison despite her newness and there she encounters Jany Holt, who will soon be released. Thoroughly alienated, her top priority is not to be saved but to take revenge on the man who put her there. After killing the man, she appears at the convent to use it as a hiding place, and she's taken in.
Most of the story is taken up with convent life and the difficulties of the spirited Faure to fit in. The convent is a social order. Therefore it has many rules, practices and demands. Newcomers are expected to fit their expected roles. Small matters often rub against Faure's ideas of spirituality and justice. Her innovations and independence are mostly not liked by others. Moreover, there are the very real human emotions that often break out too among the nuns. Neither does Holt respond to Faure. Bresson's portrait of convent life is probably fair and it's not especially flattering. These women after all are not saints. But there is a great deal of religious wisdom herein and the treatment is sympathetic.
The story is quite subtle. It's tied to Faure's relationships with her superiors and equals; and it's tied to the difficult case presented by the distance of Holt and her antagonism to Faure's caring about her. The difficulties of winning through to spiritual cleansings are formidable.
Bresson's filming is first-rate. One never notices it. The film is not dated at all, without using any of the gimmicks that later afflict modern films. It is clean and uncluttered story-telling. There are no obtrusive bravura displays. There is a quiet strength and confidence about it. Bresson's choice of shots always seems right and effortless.
The film has been restored and the blacks and whites really look magnificent.