The Flowers of St. Francis (1950)
d. Roberto Rossellini
Criterion Collection #293
Merry Christmas! I like to keep the blog dark on major holidays but writing about The Flowers of St. Francis on Christmas was irresistible. While there are stylistic consistencies between Rossellini's better known Italian neo-realist trailblazers of the same period and this film, the thematic gap is likely to leave viewers double checking whether The Flowers of St. Francis is really a Rossellini picture. There is no hint of world weary irony or cynicism in his portrayal of St. Francis, here simply Francis. Rather the approach is classically hagiographical: a series of well known incidents from the works produced after his death by his followers.
Franciscan monks famously take a vow of poverty, and The Flowers of St, Francis will certainly fill you in on the medieval back story as well as the various ways Francis proved himself to his followers, who are also the "Flowers" in the title (I think.) Francis stands for peace, non-violence and kindness towards others. In the accompanying Criterion Collection essay, the author mentions that in contemporaneous interviews Rossellini compared St. Francis to Gandhi as a way of making the case for the relevance of his film.
Despite the ponderous and religious nature of the subject, the film possesses the quiet beauty of other Rossellini films, and by the end it becomes comparable to his other films and less the stylistic outlier that it at first appears to be.