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15 out of 17 people found the following review useful:

Biographical movie about one of the greatest saints of the Catholic Church, saint Francis of Assisi!

Author: Marcin Kukuczka from Cieszyn, Poland
13 June 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Anybody who is interested in the person of saint Francis of Assisi must have noticed that he is one of the historical figures that has been at the top of interest in cinema, no matter of period or country. From the most famous artistic BROTHER SUN SISTER MOON (1972) by Franco Zeffirelli, through FRANCIS OF ASSISI (1961) by Michael Curtiz, FRANCESCO D'ASSISI (1966) by Liliana Cavani (remake 1989), FRANCESCO, GIULLARE DI DIO (1950) by Roberto Rossellini to this movie by Michele Soavi. The fact is that there is still an interest in the genius of this saint, his universal message of life filled with purity, straightforward love to God and His creatures. Since there are so many films made so far, every new film inevitably copes with the higher expectations of the viewers. This is also the problem that FRANCESCO (2002) is subjected to. However, the question is how many films really resemble the gist of Franciscan life. Michele Soavi's FRANCESCO is different than most other movies in the sense that it emphasizes biographical facts rather than concentrates on the selected events, like Rossellini's or Zeffirelli's films do. But is it helpful enough for a modern viewer? Does it add anything to the usually distorted film image of this great saint?

The film very memorably shows some of the facts from Francis' life that are helpful for the viewer to get to know this person better. First, I like the way Mr Soavi shows Francis' change of heart, from a pampered boy of his rich parents to a man of piety, sacrifice, and simplicity. Being in prison during the war with Perugia, he comes across the Bible written in modern language and reads it word for word, skipping nothing. It was, as a matter of fact, at this period of his life that he started to love and follow all words from the Gospels without any exceptions. Second, it is the only film that so profoundly and touchingly shows the famous sermon to birds. Francis sings hymns to God and birds of various kinds follow him. That's really showed in an unforgettable way!

SPOILER: There are, however, quite serious simplifications that are hard not to be skipped, but also typical for biographical movies in which it is difficult to balance the time given to certain events. My complaint relates to two major aspects: firstly, too limited mention about Francis' journey to the Holy Land, and, secondly, no mention of Porziuncola church , the only place outside Rome where people could get the plenary indulgence. It was one of Francis' greatest dreams that was fulfilled. Concerning Francis' visit to the Holy Land, it is important to mention that he was a crusader of peace, he visited the sultan with the slogan of PAX ET BONUM (Peace and Goodness) on his mouth, which was purely Christian. So far, this scene was entailed only in Curtiz' movie FRANCIS OF ASSISI (1961). Both of these aspects too profoundly refer to modern times to skip them in such a movie.

The cast give fine performances but not all of them fit to their roles as well as in other films about Francesco. Raoul Bova is a good choice for the main role expressing memorably Francesco's purity and childlike attitude towards God and His creatures. Amelie Daure is also accurate as Claire stressing her innocence and the sole aim in life which is to follow Francesco in his simplicity and charity. I also liked Toni Bertorelli as the Pope Innocent III. He wonderfully combines his power and calmness. SPOILER: However, Mariano Rigillo does not do a very good job as Pietro Bernardone. Sometimes, a viewer may get a wrong impression that Francis' father was a good person who wanted well for his son. As a matter of fact, he was greedy and furious when Francis gave the riches to the poor. He was also very cruel for his son. The portrayal of Bernardone is best done by Lee Montague in Zeffirelli's movie so far. In that movie, you really get a clear idea of Francesco's relationship with his father. However, in Soavi's film, it appears to be less clear. And Bishop Guido, an indefatigable supporter of Francis' new lifestyle, is very shadowed as well. But mistakes are unavoidable...

Nevertheless, honestly speaking, this movie provides the viewer with a lot of facts from Francis' life, which is helpful for a number of viewers. However, the complaint to this movie might be the fact that it is too much of biography and too little of reference to universal Franciscan and Christian life. Since the life of saint Francis of Assisi was a focus in many movies so far, we do not need another biography. Books are best for reading about Francis' life. What we need now is a movie that brings the message of Francesco's virtues to modern world, particularly peace, love, and charity. Michele Soavi's movie unfortunately does not serve this purpose as much as it could. 7/10! Perhaps, there will be a movie that will manage to do it...

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12 out of 17 people found the following review useful:

Another film about "Il Poverello"

Author: Armand from Romania
21 January 2007

An interesting film about a special hero of faith. Beautiful, subtle, pleasant. But, in same time, very strange. At first, for the carnal Francis propose by director. For me, the perfect image of "The Second Crist" is the Giotto's fresco. Then, for the original spirit of acting, pragmatic, powerful and shallow. In final, for the humanization of a sacred symbol because Francis of Assisi is not only a saint of a religion, patron of animals, Italy or environment, venerated in Romano Catholicism, founder of "Friars Minor" but one of most important builders of European values.

His life is part of a huge adventure to discover the roots of faith and the essence of Christianism. His "Canticum Fratris Solis", his Regula, his sacrifice and his conversion, stories from "Fioretti di San Francesco" are in same measure important in West and in East. The gestures, answers or prays are same in Orthodox Church, with same sense. The cross of San Damiano remains like fundamental sign of responsibility's forms. And, more important, Francis is model for every desire, hope and fight who compose our life.

In conclusion, a good film. Not remarkable, not poetic, splendid or heroic. But touching and kindly, decent and subtle. In fact, may be a film about Poverello a failure?

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5 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

I love this movie, this film changed my life

Author: Cristescu Catalin from Romania
8 March 2009

(I am from Romania so please excuse my English) I read a book about life of Saint Francisc, a book that was written by a Saint, but the movie was different. The movie is very romantic, very charming, i love so much Michele Soavi's style, and of course the great talent of Raoul Bouva, in my opinion he is one of the greatest actors from all times, sometimes I think he is the greatest. I love the music, like a friend of mine said, only for the music, this film had to take 5 Oscars. I am so sorry that only few people saw this movie, it is relatively unknown. But for me, if it is not the great movie, at any rate, it is one of the greatest film ever made. I want to thank God and Saint Francisc for inspiring this fellows who made this movie, and of course I want to thank Michele Soavi, Raoul Bouva, and the crew, because they made me cry with joy.

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:


Author: info-19154 from United States
31 March 2009

Ten is usually not an easy score to give. However, this is probably one of the best Christian/Catholic/Orthodox films ever made. The cinematography is stunning and creative. The director was not afraid to take chances. This film shows the humanity of a saint joined perfectly with his spirituality. Some of the other comments I read here seem to form opinions based their presuppositions about Francesco. Heroes are characters that we easily put on a pedestal and even mystify. This is the story of a man who sets his hand to the plow and does not look back. Through interior storms and exterior thunderings he holds fast. Faithfulness is expressed in a journey. The characters fit their roles well. The acting is superb. Definitely not an American film. Refreshing!

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Visually pleasing, but superficial, and TV alike..

Author: Icons76 from Los Angeles, usa
18 February 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Maybe because i know Michele Soavi as a Cult Film's director.Maybe because some of the reviews were so good, I would have never imagined that i was up for such a disappointment. Whichever my attitude towards religion(s) may be, I'm just watching a movie, for what it truly is and what i am able to truly perceive from it. I can only say that while, some visuals were vibrant and stylish as in some of Soavi's better works, especially, the script was instead, way too often lacking any depth or insight, and, any of that more profound research, it is so necessary to explore, when facing such historical complex themes! There was hardly any credibility on the characters and their motivations, or life styles, considering, especially, the times and places, where they were living and having to cope with (the Middle Ages, a very dark time of our History!). I understand that movies must be modernized, actually made understandable for audiences living at the present time, but, reducing a very insightful character like St. Francis,that, after spending years, living an uneducated existence, as the socially unaware, selfish and wealthy, privileged son of a rich and shady merchant, suddenly, after an incandescent and challenging epiphany happened while fighting a War he didn't even clearly understood, after coming home, realized the absurdity of any war or violence, and the hypocrisy of the times towards a World, until then, way too unknown to him, and, yet so large and vast to impress him to the point of becoming, as a result of a sense of extreme pity and virtue, one of the most famous rebellious young men ever, so ahead of his times, and, so clearly envisioning the absurdity, the corrupted Roman Catholic Church had done of the purest, most noble message and doctrine left by Jesus of Nazareth! So moved and so against the rules of his times, Francesco did what he could, abandoning everything he had: from its possessions, immediately given with generosity to the million of people then having to face misery and illnesses, for no apparent motive, other than the greed of a few powerful and (often) unlawfully enriched few families(like his very own) or members of the same Roman Church, who were neglecting the rights,all humans should equally have been given, and, were wildly insensitive to nature, and, its beauty often so violated by a foolish disrespect! Francesco, finally choosing to live in restraint, not only gave everything he'd owned, to the people, but,also started preaching to convince a few of his friends to do the same, at first, and, later, even trying to extend to others his extraordinary perceptions, taking him to incredible reveals and a strength so extraordinary to impress so many, becoming the enforcer of a new, and, singled out, Christian movement! This movie only partially achieves the interior and political "grandness" expressed in one of the strongest messages ever brought to Earth, by a very simple man! There are some spectacular moments, but, the direction results ultimately cold, and, extremely weak in its intents, maybe because of a narrative and cinematic mediocre style, that's completely non effective and deprived of a more personal enlightenment by taking on a story of a man, so deeply touched, to opt for extremely modern and unforgettable choices. While the music blasts like in a mediocre B movie, trying to copy Hollywood, without even having either that Classic filmmaking's mainstream force, nor its huge budgets, and, showing just an overview of way too many Historical references, resulting almost an inept, useless piece of work, plagued by an elusive script, filled with dialogs very often lacking authenticity or real sensibility, or spiritual consciousness. And at the end, this forgettably vacuous representation just shows so many flawed key choices and weakened intents, while, even its costumes and production design are often very much missing authenticity in favor of shock value or simple aesthetic needs, trying wrongly to cover up for all those emotional holes that ends up dooming this film made for TV, and, very much looking like a TV product of average quality, but, certainly, again so lacking cinematic strengths or more of a prime personal telling. I must say that was also quite surprised reading some of the naiveté of the comments who were so over estimating star Raoul Bova, playing St. Francis. While the actor gives here probably his best performance to date, he's still over all, often too wooden ,and most of all, emotionally insufficiently conniving to reproduce such profound challenging and life threatening choices, resulting, at times, almost fastidiously fake and more seemingly like a victim of the circumstances, more than a truly enlightened young man, touched by such infinite grace and vision. Bova lacks visibly any of the real qualities that only much greater actors could call, in order to believably portraying such complex ,and, at the same time fascinating realization, taking the character to its ultimate strength! He lacks the extraordinary cinematic quality, the actor of the Classic Zeffirelli's most famous movie about St.Francis, the aesthetic but truly touching, "Brother Sun, Sister Noon" was so profusely and naturally dispensing, and, he's miles and miles away from all the nobility and interior work, that, with impressive and penetrating acting force, Mickey Rourke had achieved so wonderfully, in the bleak and dark, yet way more truthfully conceived and historically reliable, Liliana Cavani's "Francesco", a very good and controversial movie, from 1989, so shamefully forgotten today, a movie that had also a much more clear vision and more personal interpretation of the story all together, and a phenomenal supporting cast, helping one of Rourke's most diverse performances, so successfully executed. This version is, at the very end, just like a little bit of a well done little homework, at times, even painfully "amateur" on its softness and sugary approach, yet often showcasing way too many pretentious images, and, exploiting story telling.

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