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08 August 2015

Frate Francesco (1927)

Frate Francesco/The Passion of St. Francis (1927) aka Santo Francesco was the third Italian film on the life of Saint Francis of Assisi. St. Francis, or Santo Francesco in Italian, was played by Alberto Pasquali, and the film was directed by Giulio Antamoro.

Santo Francesco
Italian postcard by ICSA, no. 557. Photo: publicity still for Frate Francesco (Giulio Antamoro, 1927) with Alberto Pasquali as St. Francis.

Santo Francesco
Italian postcard by ICSA, no. 563. Photo: publicity still for Frate Francesco (Giulio Antamoro, 1927) with Alberto Pasquali as St. Francis. Caption: 'Francis renounces all his earthly goods and dedicates himself to God.'

Santo Francesco
Italian postcard by ICSA, no. 560. Photo: publicity still for Frate Francesco (Giulio Antamoro, 1927) with Romuald Joubé as Monaldo di Sassorosso.

Elena Baranowitch as Monna Pica in Santo Francesco
Italian postcard by ICSA, no. 558. Photo: publicity still for Frate Francesco aka Santo Francesco (Giuliano Antamoro, 1927) with Elena Baranowitch as Monna Pica.

Euna De Rasi as Agnese in Santo Francesco
Italian postcard by ICSA, no. 561. Photo: publicity still for Frate Francesco aka Santo Francesco (Giuliano Antamoro, 1927) with Euna De Rasi as Agnese.

Alfredo Robert (Pietro di Bernardone) in Santo Francesco
Italian postcard by ICSA, no. 562. Photo: publicity still for Frate Francesco aka Santo Francesco (Giuliano Antamoro, 1927) with Alfredo Robert as Pietro di Bernardone.

Alfredo Robert in Santo Francesco
Italian postcard for Frate Francesco aka Santo Francesco (Giuliano Antamoro, 1927) with Alfredo Robert as Pietro di Bernardone.

Ambitious project


Frate Francesco (Giulio Antamoro, 1927) was the third Italian silent film on the life of St. Francis of Assisi, after Il poverello di Assisi (Enrico Guazzoni, 1911) and Frate Sole (Mario Corsi, Ugo Falena, 1918). In addition, the poet Guido Gozzano had written a film script in 1916 and Adolfo Padovan had tried in vain his luck at Milano Films in the early 1910s.

Antamoro's Francis had been an ambitious project: in budget, in length, and in scope. Several scriptwriters were attracted while the famous Francescan, Professor Dane Jörgensen wrote the first script version. Instead of the idyllic countryside in Falena's version, Antamoro focused on characters, extending the storyline with all kinds of antagonists like Monaldo di Sassorosso and Myria di Leros who get ample time and space.

The film is also full of symbolism: Francis is presented as the new Christ, standing before the Crucifix. His mother holds a wounded man as in Mary's Pietà. The narrative's parable is that of a weak man who overcomes and mediates in conflicts, only thanks to his belief.

Still, not all critics liked the film at its release and some accused it of being too static and therefore uncinematic. Moreover, the film came out in a year that most Italian film people had lost hope to revive its national cinema and many had fled to Berlin to pursue their careers in Germany.

Santo Francesco
Italian postcard by ICSA, no. 557. Photo: publicity still for Frate Francesco (Giulio Antamoro, 1927). Caption: 'La Porziuncola'. Near this chapel dating from the 4th century, Frances and his followers built huts. Later it would be the basis of the first Francescan convent and would be incorporated in the Basilica Santa Maria degli Angeli in Assisi.

Santo Francesco
Italian postcard by ICSA, no. 563. Photo: publicity still for Frate Francesco (Giulio Antamoro, 1927) with Alberto Pasquali as St. Francis. Caption: 'Pietro di Bernardone (Alfredo Robert) reproaches Frances (Pasquali) his dissolute life.'

Santo Francesco
Italian postcard by ICSA, no. 564. Photo: publicity still for Frate Francesco (Giulio Antamoro, 1927) with Alberto Pasquali as Francesco and Enta Droubetzkoy aka Elena Baranowitch as Francesco's mother Monna Pica.

Santo Francesco
Italian postcard by ICSA, no. 565. Photo: publicity still for Frate Francesco (Giulio Antamoro, 1927). Caption: 'Francis and a poor man.'

Santo Francesco
Italian postcard by ICSA, no. 566. Photo: publicity still for Frate Francesco (Giulio Antamoro, 1927). Caption: 'After the battle. Monna Pica (Enta Droubetzkoy) and a wounded man.'

Santo Francesco
Italian postcard by ICSA, no. 567. Photo: publicity still for Frate Francesco (Giulio Antamoro, 1927). Caption: 'Frances has invited the poor to follow him to his father's house.' In the middle Alberto Pasquali as Frances and Enta Droubetzkoy as his mother.

Santo Francesco
Italian postcard by ICSA, no. 569. Photo: publicity still for Frate Francesco (Giulio Antamoro, 1927). Caption: 'Chiara degli Scifi (Bice Jany) admires the piety of Francesco (Alberto Pasquali).'

Santo Francesco
Italian postcard by ICSA, no. 572. Photo: publicity still for Frate Francesco (Giulio Antamoro, 1927) with Monaldo di Sassorosso (Romuald Joubé) and Myria di Leros (Donatella Gemmò).

Santo Francesco
Italian postcard by ICSA, no. 573. Photo: publicity still for Frate Francesco (Giulio Antamoro, 1927). Caption: 'The conversion of Sassorosso.' Visible are Alberto Pasquali as St. Francis and Romuald Joubé as Sassorosso.

Santo Francesco
Italian postcard by ICSA, no. 574. Photo: publicity still for Frate Francesco (Giulio Antamoro, 1927). Caption: 'The Death of God's Little Poor Man'.

Sources: Elena Mosconi (L'impressione del film, 2006), Wikipedia (Italian) and IMDb.

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