The Flowers of St. Francis

An experimental neo-realist film, not so much a biopic as a pictorial devotional to the titular medieval saint. Rossellini divides his Flowers of St. Francis into twelve vignettes showcasing the personal and spiritual milestones in the life of the titular ascetic. Rossellini’s use of non-professional actors (except for the appropriately scene-chewing Fabrizi) and a stripped-down technique succeed in creating the impression that the director and his cameraman traveled back to early 13th century Italy and gathered this luminous record. The result is simple, unpretentious, and an uncannily evocative portrait–emotionally moving, even funny, without overplaying its hand. In that sense, Rossellini stays true to his neo-realist principles and to his unconditionally humble subject. With his warm, welcoming, unassuming presence, Gerardi does the example of St. Francis proud in this, one of the cinema’s loveliest spiritual explorations.

Grade: A-

Directed by: Roberto Rossellini
Screenplay by: Federico Fellini, Father Antonio Lisandrini, Father Félix Morión, Roberto Rossellini
Cast: Aldo Fabrizi, Brother Nazario Gerardi, Arabella Lemaitre

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