Olmi is one of Europe's last Old Masters in the art of film making. He is usually regarded as a belated neo-realist, but after you've seen "The Legend of the Holy Drinker", you will realize the label simply does not stick. This is a film about spirituality, about communion, one of the most deeply religious movies ever, whose only rivals might be Dreyer's "Ordet" or Bergman's rather pretentious "faith trilogy" ("Through a Glass Darkly", "Winter Light" and "The Silence"). However, you will not find Scandinavian mists or angst in Catholic Olmi's adaptation of the beautiful novella written, oddly enough, by a great Jewish novelist, Joseph Roth. Wine is a metaphor for life, and Paris is a metaphor for our urban world. In this symbolic universe, it takes a great actor to give flesh and blood to the character of Andreas, the holy drinker, a beggar endowed with an amazing sense of dignity. Rutger Hauer was the man for the job: this was his best performance: he was never better, and, to judge from the course his career has taken, I fear he will never be better than in this film. It is not a thriller, but it is thrilling. It takes its own leisurely pace, but goes very far, very deep indeed into the human soul. After so many insipid or unpalatable cinematic concoctions, treat yourself to this film: it truly is vintage stuff.
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