Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.
Original title: Francesco, giullare di Dio
Italy, 1950. Cineriz, Rizzoli Film. Story by Roberto Rossellini, Screenplay by Federico Fellini, Antonio Lisandrini, Felix Morlion, Roberto Rossellini. Cinematography by Otello Martelli. Produced by Angelo Rizzoli. Music by Renzo Rossellini. Production Design by Virgilio March. Costume Design by Marina Arcangeli. Film Editing by Jolanda Benvenuti.
Roberto Rossellini followed a decade of hard-hitting, gritty dramas, in which he made himself the father of Italian post-war Neorealism, with this sweet and deceptively simple film about morality. The fact that it was released at the height of his controversial fame, for having begun an affair with Ingrid Bergman during the shooting of Stromboli while both were married to other people, only adds to the irony of the film’s power when taken in perspective. It’s a picaresque collection of scenes centring around the titular saint and his fellow brethren, who navigate the murky medieval world, where survival is rare and religious piety is even rarer, with their clear and focused view of humanity. Non-professional actors do a terrific job of bringing the brothers to life, with Rossellini staging sequences with a sense of incredible power and even the odd jolt of whimsy. It’s not the most groundbreaking film you’ve ever seen, but its even keel and non-sensational attitude towards religion, a rarity in films that promote the subject, makes it one to last for the ages.
The Criterion Collection: #293