Tuesday, September 22, 2015
'Francesco' BD/DVD: Classic St. Francis Biopic Release Coincides with Pope Visit
Uber-awesome indie foreign film distributor Film Movement demonstrates the same excellent instincts regarding its extensive DVD and Blu-ray (BD) catalog in releasing the 1989 English-language Italian film "Francesco." The separate DVD and BD releases of this beautifully filmed biopic of St. Francis of Assisi (with Mickey Rourke doing a good job in the title role) via Film Movement Classics arrived a few weeks before the U.S. visit of Pope Francis.
As an aside, other recent notable Classics releases include BDs of the recently reviewed French farce "The Tall Blond Man With One Black Shoe" and the also discussed highly sensual Ewan MacGregor drama "The Pillow Book."
The nomination for the Palme d'Or at the 1989 Cannes Film Festival reflects the crisp cinematography that Blu-ray enhances and the quality of the narrative itself. The good elements of the latter relate to the action-adventure vibe of the film.
The time lime of the film shifts from the founding fathers (and mother) of the Franciscan order meeting in the aftermath of the death of Francesco to the events of his life that they are chronicling.
We first meet Francesco as a passionate son of a wealthy merchant; said passion at that time revolves around quests for absolutely fabulous glory. His early adventures include being a prisoner of war and carousing with his posse.
Life-changing encounters transform Francesco from a hybrid of a Kennedy and a younger member of the British royal family to the man who is so central to Catholicism. His good deeds include working with lepers, founding the aforementioned order, and being a strict constructionist who preaches the Gospel as the gospel. We also see that he is not afraid to take on daunting authority figures that include his biological father and the pope of the day.
The film further is a perfect example of nudity being central to the story. (One spoiler is that we do not actually see Mickey's mouse.) Francesco strongly believes in shedding every last stitch both to reject the material world in which we material girls and boys live and to demonstrate humility. One particular scene uses nudity to demonstrate the extreme devotion of one particular follower.
Another memorable scene has Francesco speaking with a large group of followers who have come to meet the man who has changed their lives. The well-presented intentional parallels evoke thoughts of Jesus having the same experience during his lifetime.
Rourke does his best work when furthering the objective of the film of showing Francesco as an ordinary man. This aspect of the personality of that character makes him someone with whom you would want to share a glass of wine; it also gives the film power in the same sense as learning of the humble acts of the current pope both in his current role and in the years before receiving that promotion.
The extras include footage from the Cannes Film Festival press conference for "Francesco" and a booklet with a fascinating essay by director Liliana Cavani,