Francesco, Jester of God

As Alain Bergala points out in his introduction to the Magnum book of photographs, the agency paid a lot of attention to fringe and non-English language cinema. David Seymour covered the filming of Rossellini’s Francesco, which was shot without the use of professional actors or commercial hype but turned out to be, in Bergala’s words, ‘a beacon in the history of the cinema.’

Francesco is one of Rossellini’s episode films: a series of short scenes chronicling various incidents in the lives of St. Francis and his friars. Once again, Rossellini favours a format that enables him to concentrate on essentials. Thus Francesco is structured as a series of tableaux with little narrative connection, each being a point in a very simple, direct, down-to-earth style. As one of the friars puts it: ‘better to preach by example than by words’, and the film concentrates almost solely on actions, on doing.

Italy, 1950.
75 mins.

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