Liliana Cavani’s 1989 Film, “Francesco”: An Unusual Movie About Francis of Assisi

I was intrigued to discover that Mickey Rourke (yes, Mickey Rourke) played St. Francis in a 1989 film by Liliana Cavani.  (You will be pleased to know I discovered this fact by Googling “movies about St. Francis” and NOT “movies with Mickey Rourke”).  Helena Bonham Carter plays Claire in the film.  Furthermore, the soundtrack was done by Vangelis, he of “Blade Runner” soundtrack fame.  Despite, and perhaps because, of this very strange ensemble of people (did I mention that Mickey Rourke played St. Francis?!), I decided to check it out.  Fortunately, it was on YouTube in its entirety so I’ve provided it below.

Reading Francis biographies is a bit of a hobby of mine, and I am presently working on a project concerning his life and what Protestant Christians can learn from him.  Zeffirelli’s 1972 film, “Brother Son, Sister Moon,” remains, in my opinion, the best Francis movie, but this Cavani film has its moments.  In particular, it powerfully demonstrates Francis’ struggle with the growth, leadership, and management of his movement.  This is no doubt because of the fact that Francis neither sought nor wanted “a movement” at all.  The movie also demonstrates well the struggle Francis faced with holding to his gospel ideal in the face of calls for a “more realistic” approach to this life.  One feels for Francis in these moments.  Had he set out to put the mantle of his gospel ideal on others, one would be more understanding of the opposition he faced, but the fact that others came voluntarily to Francis and his lifestyle makes their complaints that much more frustrating.  Furthermore, believe it or not, Mickey Rourke’s performance is admirable, once you get used to seeing him in this roll.

**Warning:  This is a European film and there are a few scenes of nudity (stripped bodies after a battle, Francis’ disrobing and hurling of himself into the snow to battle lust, etc.).

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