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I thought Mickey Rourke did a wonderful job portraying Francesco. I did
not realize the historical surrounding of what was going on in
Francesoco's time. It is so important to understand the context of what
makes a person into what they are. His experiences and what he
witnessed in the prison and the lavish lifestyle that he and his
friends were a part of and his experience in reading the "word" in his
own language affected him deeply.
I also want to mention the portrayal of Chiara "St. Clare". What a truly beautiful and generous person.
I believe that the way the movie portrayed his journey in faith gave a lot of insight to a truly great man. It has helped me in my own faith as a Christian and as a person in general. The movie really moved me.
I am continually amazed that this truly great film still receives so
little recognition. There are probably multiple reasons for this.
Certainly, the initial distribution was lackluster. Critical commentary
is also hard to come by. Still, even in its most widely available and
unfortunately truncated form (more on this later), Francesco impresses
The decision to cast Mickey Rourke as St. Francis must seem almost like a goof to many. Those who are most likely to want to see a film of this nature might even be put off by what they may see as stunt casting by a director who is not serious. But this is just not the case. Rourke's career since this film has been spotty at best and his screen image has often descended into self-parody, but there was a time when he was a fine actor doing exemplary work and his performance here is absolutely on par with any of that. He gives us a vision of the saint which is rooted in material human essence, not overwrought histrionics. His internal changes are evoked through delicate, nuanced moments--small changes in Rourke's facial expressions, physical gestures, etc. Not a note is careless or inconsistent. The paroxysms of emotion toward the end are earned.
The development of his spiritual quest is not overstated; we are constantly positioned on the outside looking in--the film is framed by the reflections of Francesco's followers. This has the effect of heightening the aura of mystery around the man and establishing respect for him as a man, not simply an iconic caricature.
Cavani takes the religious aspect of the story very seriously; far more so than many more overtly pious films. Though every scene carefully considers the implications of faith, no points are made simply. The reality of the life Francesco chose is depicted as rough and uncompromising. The film's theological arguments are subtle and complicated, benefiting from the deeply serious tone of the piece. Having said all that, it must be added that the version currently available in the US is pretty atrocious actually. At 119 minutes, it savagely whittles the original version down by a full half hour. This is common with European films distributed in the US and isn't always unbearable. Here, though, it isn't a matter of just cutting out or trimming scenes. Whole sequences have been rearranged, creating a jumbled rhythm. Vangelis' music cues, which add so much to the emotional quality of the film, are also switched around for no apparent reason. It is a tribute to the strength of Francesco that even in such a butchered state it remains powerful (the US cut was all I could see for years), and it does benefit from the ability to hear Rourke and Bonham-Carter's real voices. If you give the film a chance and like what you see try hunting down the region 2 DVD release. It is well worth the effort to see such a glorious work in its proper form.
I'd seen the Zefirelli version of St. Francis, and in contrast, I have to say this presented a somewhat different perspective -more realistic if anything. Not knowing much about Mickey Rourke, I was pleasantly surprised. Of course he had a modern hair cut throughout, and his tatoos could be seen in some scenes. . . .but when put to the test he passed in my estimation. His training at the Strasberg School paid off. In the beginning he was a little stiff, but as the film developed, so did his character, and the emotional scenes were very believable. Condensing the life of St. Francis of Assisi into a 2 hr. film is a challenge, but I think the important events were covered including his early life as a man of the world, his life-altering crisis of finding God, the creation of the little band of followers and the conflicts, the stigmata, etc. And, OK, Mickey Rourke has gorgeous eyes!!!
I was an editor at a facility in the late 80's early 90's that did a
cut-down version of the original film. I think this is the version in
circulation today. The guys who did the cut-down were less concerned
with continuity than they were at getting it in to their desired
That being said, it is still a pretty good film. When you mention that Mickey Rourke is Saint Francis to most people you get an interesting look, but I think he did a good job with the roll, maybe a bit over the top at times, but still watchable. Helena Bonham Carter was great as Clare. If you get a chance to see this film, by all means, check it out.
How many religious epics have you seen that are actually historically
acurate and present the Characters as human?
One Website critiqued Francesco as the "Dr. Dolittle" of Christianity. This is an extremely unfair and shortsighted view of what this movie presents. The stories of St. Francis' union with nature and animals do not even get mentioned in this film.
One of the coolest things that this film gives is a glimpse of the mystery of conversion to Christianity. No one could understand what Francesco has discovered until they too are willing to forsake all they have and commit themselves to the obedience of the gospel. This movie screams of the love affair that Francesco had with CHRIST.
Also this film does a great job showing how the pride and ambition of man screws up good things that GOD has started in the hearts of men.
Could any one do better than Mickey Rourke in this role? Probably, but could it be somebody that wouldn't come across acting like Pat Boone in the Cross and the Switchblade?
My only regret is that the actors in this film have not discovered in reality the truth of what St. Francis' life can show us. Helena Bonham Carter has all but been type casted in my mind as Chiara, but films like Fight Club will add a good amount of dross to that image.
I've seen this film several times and plan to see it several more, this film is a treasure among religious films. Brother Sun, Sister Moon sucks compared to this film. I do hope to see more like it.
Also if anyone can help me find out where I can see the 1966 version I would be appreciative.
Although the most famous movie about St Francis of Assisi still appears
to be poetical BROTHER SUN SISTER MOON by Franco Zeffirelli, FRANCESCO
by Liliana Cavani is, perhaps, less famous but appears to be more
faithful to the biography of this great man who renewed the medieval
church in the spirit of the Gospel. While Zeffirelli's film
concentrates purely on the youth years of Francesco, his spiritual
birth, his joy of life, and is, therefore, more an interpretation than
a biopic, Cavani's film draws our attention to Francesco's suffering,
his search for God not in flowers but in tears, and is, therefore, a
very realistic biopic filled rather with pain than with song. But let
me treat this movie separately, as an individual work since comparison
may sometimes disturb the gist.
The first aspect that makes any movie good or weak are performances. Mickey Rourke is pretty memorable in the lead. There are his moments that really shine, particularly in the sequence of painful experience of the main character. Although Mickey is known for not so ambitious roles, you may get used to him as Francesco in the long run. Helena Bonham Carter is, perhaps, not the Clare many people imagine; however, she gives a profound performance of a spiritual person, a woman of charity and pure love, a woman of great sainthood. Francesco's parents, Paolo Bonacelli as Pietro Bernardone and a French actress Andrea Ferreol as Pica, are good. That seems to be quite probable how "worldly spirited" Francesco's home really was: dreams for business and luxury. Except for them, I liked Diego Ribun as Bernardo Quintavalle. He has that nobility in his face that Bernardo must have had (what we know from biographies). I also liked Fabio Bussotti as calm Leon called God's lamb. Generally, performances are fine.
The insight into the historical period is also accurate. Although one watches a biopic of a saint, this aspect of historical accuracy is pretty important. Liliana Cavani does a good job showing the reality of the medieval town, the cruelty of war, but foremost the horrific social discrepancies. That is what moved Francesco and promoted in him the desire to help, to hug a leper, to give the last slice to the starving, to offer a smile to the upset, in short, to regard the Gospel to the letter. Sometimes, these scenes may seem too realistic, too depressing; yet, they have to be there. When we consider the life of St Francis, it was, as I already mentioned, a way of tears. I will never forget the final scene, the real spiritual suffering that turns into physical one...and this physical pain occurs to be such a Gift of God...
The music is perfect. Vangelis, as always, supplies us with a profound tune that opens us to wonderful horizons. Francesco does not sing at all (which is a historical shortage), yet the music in the background fits really well as if to present a perfect harmony of flesh and spirit, the harmony that Francesco was given by his Master because he learned to love entirely, without any limits. In the final moments, Vangelis makes a combination of tunes applied to feelings. Unforgettable!
I recently saw FRANCESCO again after more than 10 years. Then, when I saw it for the first time, I did not like it that much, I found it too serious; perhaps I was more used to other biopics. Nevertheless, now I heartily recommend this movie to anyone who likes spiritual experience, who is able to see deeper, who looks at the world more through the eyes of love than through the eyes of reason.
Il Poverello, as Francesco is called, brought the message of peace and goodness, PAX ET BONUM, to every place where he stood. He brought love where hatred was, joy where sadness was, pardoning where injury was, smile where tears were, console where terror was. Although this message seems to be universal, is today's viewer able to understand these things? Is PAX ET BONUM (Peace and Goodness) something more than just a slogan of one man who lived hundreds of years ago? 7/10
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
As far as I know not that many people have seen this underrated epic
starring Mickey Rourke but if your a fan of his work you should
definitely check this out.
Rourke is cast as the historical figure Francis of Assisi and delivers a tour de force performance. Few actors can match Rourke for showing emotion in their acting but in this film he gives a masterclass. His character starts off rich in a wealthy family only for him to sacrifice all of this in favour of living the life of a beggar, having read in a book details of the life of Jesus Christ. Rourkes character then somewhat mirrors Jesus by spreading his gospel and becoming champion of the poor.
What makes this film so great is the enormous emotion portrayed in the characters and the haunting music of Vangelis added to the beauty in the cinematography and the directors storytelling. There are many memorable scenes but the extraordinary final act from Rourke will live long in the memory long after the film has finished.
A must for Mickey fans and a chance for new fans to witness him in a very different but remarkable film.
I had no problem with Rourke as St. Francis, he does some of his best work here. This is not your typical religious epic, with special effects and doe eyed saints, this is brutal realism with great supporting performances thrown in. I gave this an 8, since this became a little disjointed toward the end.
...or one of them. This is - so far- the best portrayal of Saint Francis of Assisi I have ever seen. I was surprised. I actually cried. But Rourke knows how to move ya believe it or not. Fantastic acting and scenery. The feel is right and the story is based more on basic facts than the usual overly-dramatic, semi-fictional scripts that we see too often from Hollywood produced "bios". This film was shot in Italy and you get a real sense of our dear Saint here. Helena Bonham Carter's portrayal of Saint Clare of Assisi is wonderful. She truly brings Clare to life here - or gives you a sense of realism and passion and true friendship. Unlike the 60's "version" and others - this is the one to see if you want to understand the basics of Francis. I also suggest reading the "Little Flowers of Saint Francis of Assisi" and "The Life of Saint Francis of Assisi" - the latter book written by Saint Bonaventure.
I was surprised to see that Mickey Rourke did this movie. He does a lot of B movies. His performance was done very well. He can be a good actor when he applies himself. He just does not know how to pick good roles. The story was interesting. It tells the life of St. Francis of Assissi. It was very inspiritual. It is interesting to see how this sect of monks came to be. 7/10
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