This film embraces everything that contemporary Hollywood cinema is so afraid of - intelligence, moral complexity, and rich characterisation. It is a simple tale really - an alcoholic vagrant in Paris is lent 200 francs by a stranger, on condition that he repays it to a local chapel when he can afford it. But what makes this an extraordinary film is the manner in which we are drawn so completely into this seemingly trivial and futile quest. This is principally down to Rutger Hauer's towering performance as the haunted, suffering tramp, who has to battle both ill-fortune and his own past to repay the debt and find peace. There is little in the way of either dialogue or action, yet Ermanno Olmi's vision of a timeless, enchanted Paris is dazzling. A lesson to others in how to tell a story on film.
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