Starring: Mickey Rouke and Helena Bonham Carter
Directed by Liliana Cavani
is a beautiful film. But know, now, many times the acting has
that kinda spaghetti-western-style of overt misplaced semi-professional-actors-upon-a-stage
like bravado. Thankfully, the tilt-a-whirl of acting calibers
does not take away from the story of St. Francis, or from Cavani's
often gorgeous direction.
the film, we are privy to Francesco's storied process of growing
in spirit and higher-calling devotion. He basically goes from
a gregarious, spoiled rich kid party boy to a leader of an entire
ultra-strict religious order, living in poverty and ultimately
becoming a Saint - a literal Saint, not a euphemism.
goes ...Francesco (Mickey Rouke pre-facial surgeries) lives a
pretty privileged life; complete with boys-of-Italy-will-be-boys
brothel visits and shooing away beggars like fly-fodder; It's
a sharp verbal swat for those who dare enter his orbit. He’s
livin’ the high life in his little Assisi.
this story gleaned from parts of known biographical bits taken
from Herman Hesse's 'Francis of Assisi,' Francesco changes the
day he meets a stunning childhood friend, turned gorgeous lady,
Chiara (played by Helens Bonham Carter who will become St.
Clare). Immediately, Francesco attempts to woo her in his
usual semi-pompous guy ways. She'll have none of it. Then, after
Frank witnesses her odd kindness to a street urchin, he not only
let a beggar in his store, but gave him many coins – while
the lady was present.
What was perhaps, at first, a flirty gotta-get-the-girl ploy,
has a huge impact when he realizes kindness feels good. And after
a terrible time as a prisoner of war, where he watches a devote
Jesus follower tortured to death for his beliefs, Francesco has
an epiphany of the soul. He wants to fellow Jesus to the letter.
When he is saved from captivity by his father's ransom, he chooses
to leave all his comforts and goes to live among the poor. Some
of his friends eventually follow him and also step away from their
charismatic man, now living with those he once winced at, Francesco
begins to share his vision of life with less, and kindness to
all. When this is not enough, he begins to beg God to speak to
him. As it is shot, and probably looked to those around him, you
have to ask, “Is he mad? Is he simply slowly losing his
in this version of his life, the only animal-centric thingy really
attached to his works is a lamb he, and his followers, spared
from spit even though they were so hungry due to poverty oaths.
Though, according to his actual friend and first biographer, it
was his communing and speaking with many animals; most famously
forest birds who, as legend goes, flocked around and stayed until
his speeches were done. And, of course his then novel idea of
treating animals as equals.
film instead hones in on his becoming a man of poverty who goes
from thinking he is better than most, to wanting to teach all
are equal (poor, rich, learned, lepers, women, animals, etc.)
ala one man: Jesus. Ultimately, both were very Universal
Unitarian in the principles; all are beloved and to be respected
– no denominational castes or judgments.
What ever Francesco did, and what ever has become lore, he lived
his life as he wished and was a very kind man. This film shares
parts of his story beautifully.
NOTE: Francesco was brought back from VHS by Film Movement.
A distributor whose films vary in popularity, production value
and content. What they share with film enthusiasts, is a love
of the medium, and if you're a film person, seriously look in
to their film club and/ or library: FILM