BERNADETTE OF LOURDES (1960) - Pick
RUSH HOUR 3 (2007) - Pass
New on DVD, Bernadette of Lourdes is among the less familiar cinematic versions of the story of the apparitions and miracles at Lourdes. Yet, after a clumsy prologue, the 1960 film turns out to be an ideal retelling of Bernadette’s story. Covering her life in the convent at Nevers after her apparitions as well as the better-known events at Lourdes, Bernadette of Lourdes avoids the Hollywood artifice of The Song of Bernadette starring Oscar-winner Jennifer Jones, and it offers a more inclusive and unified account than both that classic and Jean Delannoy’s 1988 Bernadette starring Sydney Penny.
True, Delannoy covered the second half of Bernadette’s story in the 1989 sequel The Passion of Bernadette, and his two-part approach is both more complete and more intimate, allowing Bernadette’s tart personality and inner struggles to come to life in a way not seen in other versions. Yet Bernadette of Lourdes is unique in covering the saint’s life as a single story with a satisfying dramatic unity. It’s easier to watch than Delannoy’s sometimes meandering second film.
Its condensed approach does mean some things are missing. The almost immediate public interest in Bernadette’s visions, and the official consternation and opposition to them, isn’t adequately explained. Plus Bernadette herself is a pious idealization rather than a developed character. Still, the film is faithful to the story with its rough edges, such as Bernadette’s parents’ initial skepticism and lack of sympathy, and is strikingly filmed in black and white.
Long out of print on VHS, Bernadette of Lourdes is now available on DVD from VCI Video, with an enormous unfortunate caveat: Like the recent Miracle of St. Thérèse DVD from Ignatius Press, the VCI Bernadette DVD offers only the English dub, without the original French-language track or optional subtitles. Still, the DVD is a welcome replacement for the hard-to-find VHS.
Also new on DVD is Rush Hour 3, a third helping of Chris Tucker and Jackie Chan. Much like the first two, this one serves up a slapdash blend of Jackie’s brilliantly choreographed action stuntwork and Chris Tucker’s crass motormouth with a generous side of gratuitous cheesecake and lame slapstick.
As per the franchise usual, the minuses outweigh the pluses by about a 2-1 margin, although Rush Hour 3 curiously front-loads the first two acts with almost nonstop dreck before pulling out the stops for a brilliant final third act atop the Eiffel Tower. If you’re a fan of well-staged action, you might want to catch the final half-hour on cable sometime — but I can’t recommend sitting through the first hour to get there. Content advisory Bernadette of Lourdes: An instance of minor profanity; restrained depiction of debilitating illness. Fine family viewing. Rush Hour 3: Much stylized action violence; frequent crass sexual references; fleeting topless nudity; recurring gratuitous cheesecake shots with ogling of scantily clad or apparently naked women; a brief, interrupted bedroom scene (no nudity); some profanity.