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14 out of 15 people found the following review useful:
The priest and the poor - a symbiotic relationship?, 21 September 2005
Author: AndreaValery from United States
Before the welfare state there was private charity. Often springing
from the ranks of the Christian church, private individuals founded
hospitals, hospices, orphanages, and attempted in general to alleviate
the misery of the impoverished. Seventeenth century France saw the
apogee of the French monarchy, of French power and culture. The
monarchy itself sometimes created hospices for the poor. One such was
the hospice of Salpétrière founded to help women in trouble or without
means. Today it is the hospital that made headlines for a while, since
Princess Diana died there.
This film is the story of one man's private endeavor to alleviate suffering. He must be distinguished from today's bleeding heart types in that Vincent de Paul gave up the totality of his possessions to actually go live among the poor. Interesting questions are raised about the psychological underpinnings of poverty itself and the nature of a man willing to renounce comfort to dwell amidst filth, germs and other indignities. He himself acknowledges with some alarm that he is as dependent on the poor as they on him.
He learns that the poor are violent, petty, selfish and arrogant, demanding more than they give in return. But he also finds people willing to improve their lot and to assist him in his Herculean efforts. He is shocked at the conditions in which they live, shocked even more at their resistance to improvement. But Christian charity is a burden that requires one to redouble one's efforts by giving love unrelentingly to those who unrelentingly shun personal responsibility and who hate the one toiling on their behalf. Still, even Vincent de Paul would not continue with such exertions did he not perceive that he was making progress.
The depiction of his wealthy female benefactors is fascinating because they are well-intentioned women willing to do good works, but unable to go beyond a certain limit of generosity. They are painfully honest about the repugnance they feel at the sight of an illegitimate baby.
Few of us could do what Vincent did, living like one obsessed. Likewise, few actors could match the electrifying performance of Pierre Fresnay, whose charisma seems to be divinely inspired. He was one of several great French actors of the classical theater who left an enduring legacy on film. Sir Alec Guinness said Fresnay was his favorite actor.
All in all, a classic with unforgettable performances and haunting black and white photography.
13 out of 14 people found the following review useful:
Movie bio worthy of a great man, 4 January 2000
A man with the history of Vincent De Paul would daunt any biographer
to do him justice, but Maurice Cloche and company hold a decided edge over
the monumental task. To undertake it with them, they have the mercurial
Pierre Fresnay to play "Monsieur Vincent." Fresnay is critic John Simon's
favorite actor, and if there was nothing more than "Grand Illusion" with
which to justify his choice, it would still be a worthy one. This movie
merely confirms his pre-eminence and our towering esteem.
It opens with De Paul entering the village Chatillon-les-Dombes where he is to assume the vacant post of parish priest and is welcomed with a stoning as he tries to save the life of a girl who has been boarded up in the house where her mother lays dead of what the villagers suspect is the plague. After petitioning the lord of the village to help without success, he takes matters into his own hands, acquiring the help of the church's caretaker to feed the famished child and bury the dead woman. He reprimands the villagers for their lack of charity, and sets out to administer the sacraments and help the family who took the orphaned girl in. He spurs on the people to such heights of charity with his sermons that they offer the family far too much to eat or store, and recognizing the waste that would ensue, he sets out to organize the people to provide for all those wanting with necessities.
The needs of the poor that Vincent De Paul tried to fill went far beyond the French countryside settings of Chatillon and Clichy. He rubbed elbows with nobility and even the royal family. This provided him with the opportunity to minister to the poor in all states of life, whether they were prison inmates or galley workers or refugees (of which there were thousands given the state of turmoil France was in at the time) or the unemployed. While he was breaking new ground on how the Church should organize itself to serve the poor (He founded the Ladies of Charity made up of noblewomen and the Daughters of Charity made up of women of lesser station.), he was also settling moral issues (The most dramatic one is the controversy he has with the charitable organizations over the taking in of foundlings.), advising against duelling, tutoring noblemen's children, and counselling priests and establishing new outlooks on how to take in new ones. The movie can only graze the surface of the phenomenal work of this great man. A much longer runtime would be in order; it could touch on the earlier part of De Paul's life (He had been abducted by Barbary Coast pirates and sold into slavery where he remained for two years under the control of an apostate priest turned Muslim whom he later converted and with whom he returned to France.) and deal with more controversial issues (His denouncing of the Jansenists; his failed plea with the minister Mazarin to leave France to stop the war.). Given the time "Monsieur Vincent" has to pay its homages, the movie uses it laudably well. Whatever its limitations, this is one of the greatest biographical movies ever made.
With a very young Michel Bouquet as a consumptive with whom Father De Paul shares his rented room and who opens the cleric's eyes to a society fraught with misery.
8 out of 9 people found the following review useful:
By far Maurice Cloche's best film, 27 October 2007
A very good biopic about a great man,Saint Vincent de Paul,whose
charity,abnegation,generosity and humanity were so huge that Queen Anne
d' Autriche used to call him "the kingdom's conscience" Filmed in black
and white ,in a style close to early Bresson,the film features many
unforgettable scenes : the reunion with the noble ladies who are
willing to "do something" but whose world is far from them ,the
Poor;the scene on the royal galley where the legend tells that Monsieur
Vincent took the place of an exhausted galley slave .
Pierre Fresnay,whose unquestionable faith would turn to bigotry in his late parts ("le Défroqué" "Tant d'Amour Perdu" )finds here his lifetime part.Sometimes it seems that the Saint rose from the dead.
Like this?Try these....
"Bernadette" Jean Delannoy 1987
"The song of Bernadette " Henry King 1940
"Thérèse" Alain Cavalier 1986
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