Francis Bernardone (Bradford Dillman) is the son of a wealthy cloth merchant in Assisi, who gives up all his worldly goods to dedicate himself to God. Clare (Dolores Hart) is a young ... See full summary »
The film dramatizes about a dozen vignettes from the life of St. Francis and his early followers - starting with their return in the rain to Rivotorlo from Rome when the Pope blessed their ... See full summary »
One of the least-known and best of the films about the life and work of Francis of Assisi is this first feature film made by Liliana Cavani and coincidentally the first feature film drama made for the Italian network RAI. It is a true wonder. Rarely has a filmmaker captured the true simplicity of the man, the privileged son of a wealthy Assisi cloth-maker who rebels against his father and against all manifestations of external luxury and wealth. His rebellion is not a prideful one but done as a means to follow more closely the teachings of Jesus any display of pomposity and might obliterated. As a soldier he experiences the horror of war and bloodshed and it fills him with revulsion. The scene where he publicly removes his clothes in a symbolic act of renunciation is beautifully done The young rebel is played here by Lou Castel, fresh from his performance in Marco Bellocchio's landmark "Fists in the Pocket." His founding of the new order of Friars Minor, conceded by Pope Innocent III, is shown here in a very moving scene, with his followers doing all the discussion with the pope while Francis hovers in the background like a timid child. Apart from the fact that the hero of Bellocchio's film was amoral and depraved and even insane, the two roles closely resemble each other in the extremeness of the two character's world views, one nihilistic, the other mystic. Bellocchio himself has a small role as Pietro, who pleads with Francis later for some modifications to the stringent rule of poverty and simplicity that his friend insists upon. In illness Francis he leaves his place to Pietro, he retires into a solitary life in Assisi and dictates to one of his followers the new rule for the order, reflected almost entirely by a reading of the gospels. In the end, as death approaches, he has a simple meal with his followers, including a favorite child who winningly repeats the final words of Francis' sentences. Soon after, he is buried naked in the earth. There have been many films about Saint Francis. This is my absolute favorite one. For me it is high praise given that I am a great admirer of Rossellini's masterful "Francesco, giullare di Dio." It is also Liliana Cavani's best film, before she went off into a number of unseemly and kinky creations that rarely appealed to me. Nor is her later remake of the Francis story, called simply "Francesco," and starring Mickey Rourke, of the same high caliber as this picture. See "Francesco d'Assisi" it if you can. It is tragic that this masterpiece is not more widely shown.
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