Print Edition: Feb. 22, 2015
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BY Steven D. Greydanus
Clare and Francis (2007) - Pick
John XXIII: The Pope of Peace (2002) - Pick
New on DVD,
Ignatius Press has added two new Italian TV miniseries to their growing library
of saint (and beatified) biopics from Lux Vide and other companies.
Clare and Francis is
Ignatius’ second Italian import on Francis of Assisi, and it’s the better of
the two — not least for its emphasis on St. Clare as well as St. Francis.
Like the earlier St.
Francis of Assisi, Clare and Francis
shows Francis as genuinely joyful, charismatic and devoted to the Church. Also
like the earlier film, Clare and Francis is
less successful with Francis’s earlier life; there is little sign of the
irrepressible spirit that made Francis popular even in prison. Yet, the
post-conversion Francis — exuberant, peaceful, joyful in humility — is among
the most persuasive I’ve seen. Clare is also well portrayed: pious and
self-possessed even in her youth.
The film covers several episodes
missing in other Francis films, including the wolf of Gubbio, Nativity scene
and his encounter with the Sultan. Rossellini’s lovely Flowers
of St. Francis has no rival as the definitive portrayal of the
Franciscan spirit, but Clare and Francis is
probably the best biopic of the saints of Assisi.
John XXIII: The Pope of Peace
stars an effective, believable Edward Asner as “the good Pope,” following
Angelo Roncalli from his Venice patriarchate to the See of Peter, with
flashbacks narrating his life from an impoverished childhood to his service as
secretary to the bishop of Bergamo, the war, and service in Bulgaria and
Against a backdrop of Roman
intrigue, John XXIII emphasizes Roncalli’s perceived
status as a simple pastor and an “interim pope” who surprised would-be Vatican
handlers by traveling, making visits to prisoners in Regina Caeli and orphans
at Christmas, and finally issuing a stunning call for a great council of the
The miniseries emphasizes the
populist, social-justice, aggiornamento
(updating) side of the “good Pope” over his traditional piety and solid
orthodoxy. Perhaps to compensate, the disc includes an interview with Catholic
historian James Hitchcock by Father Mitch Pacwa, offering a balanced assessment
of Pope John’s mission and pastoral style.
Both discs come with 16-page
booklets by Tim Drake and Carl Olsen with background material, study and
discussion aids and resource lists.
Both discs also come with technical
caveats. Though shot for TV, both were filmed in widescreen but are presented
on DVD in letterboxed format rather than anamorphic widescreen, which doesn’t
look good on widescreen TV.
Both come with Italian language
tracks and English subtitles, but the menus aren’t very friendly (language and
subtitle options must be separately chosen, and you always have to go back to
the main menu).
and Francis Italian track has a metallic echoey sound, and the audio
on the John XXIII Hitchcock/Pacwa interview is
Caveats aside, both discs are
worthwhile and edifying portraits of pivotal figures in Church history and well
CONTENT ADVISORY Clare and Francis: Mild violence; a few unpleasant images of leprosy.
Pope John XXIII: Nothing problematic. Both fine family viewing.
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