Starring:Graham Faulkner, Judi Bowker, Leigh Lawson, Kenneth Cranham, Lee Montague
Director: Franco Zeffirelli
Format: Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, DVD-Video, Subtitled, Widescreen, Surround
Sound, Digital Sound, Dubbed, NTSC
DVD Release Date: March 9, 2004
Run Time: 121 minutes
Franco Zefferelli’s biography of St. Francis, `Brother Sun and Sister Moon,’ is a bona fide masterpiece. The cinematography–thanks partly to Ennio Guarnieno–unfolds kaleidoscopically. The editing and camera angles are sheer perfection. Watching the beauty unfold in every scene, village and landscape have the glory as if they were from Francis’s own eyes. Created in 1972, Zefferelli draws from an audience during the waning years of the hippie era. Nevertheless, his implementation of an icon classic is one of the few figures of
Catholicism to thrive during that time. (Unless you want to qualify John XXIII, but he provided less hippie appeal.) `Brother…’ is sensual without being disrespectful and enjoyable without becoming out of context. The architecture and garments never forget that Francis came from medieval times–even if the pageantry, too, imitates a peacock’s myriad of colors. Included in the story is a rather harsh rendering of ecclesiastical authority. (G.K. Chesterton, in his biography of Francis, maintains that upon their meeting, Francis was the big man and the pope was the small man, but the small man was needed. Francis restored a gospel simplicity to a church that was as damaged as the actual one he had to reassemble, but the pope had prudent points to make.) Francis’s father and the local bishop bring enough conflict to provide a plot. Anyway, theology aside, there isn’t much to argue about in this rendering. Besides Alec Guinness doesn’t disappoint as the pope. Speaking of acting, Graham Faulkner is a dead-ringer in looks and interpretation for the troubadour of God and nature. And “Sister Moon,” Claire (Judy Bowner)–if you will–is radiant, even if she seems misplaced–more like a runner-up to play Juliet. Every aspect of Francis is represented, and, although, like the rest of us, he led an episodic life, the threads are woven as seamlessly as one of his father’s garments. Francis’s life comes off like a glistening mosaic in movie form. Zefferelli’s treatment of Francis walks on water. Never plodding nor resorting to spiritual fast food, the pace is as flawless as everything else. How they manage to use Donovan’s original soundtrack and a “Gloria” that never become tongue-in-cheek or embarrassing is a miracle in itself. (Donovan was a perfect choice for exhuding the saint’s simplicity.) Florid without being vapid, timely without seeming dated, ‘Brother Sun and Sister Moon’ is a celebration of Francis’s life. Like his rendering of ‘Romeo and Juliet,’ `Brother Sun and Sister Moon’ deserves to be a Zefferelli classic.