We need more directors willing to take risks with films like Get Out.
Franco Zeffirelli’s “Brother Sun, Sister Moon” is a big, limp Valentine of a movie, filled with an excess of sweetness and light. What a shame. His subject is Francis of Assisi, one of the most interesting and natural of saints, but Zeffirelli has portrayed him as sort of the first flower child.
Well, maybe he was. It may be true that Francis went out into the fields and spoke to the birds. But is it true, as Zeffirelli seems to believe, that the birds had more to say than Francis did? He hardly gives us six lines of intelligent or perceptive dialog in the movie; the rest is empty, pretty phrasing. After a while we long for a cynic to wander into the movie and ask Francis a few pointed questions. The movie shows every sign of having been taken apart and put back together again. The opening - a rambling, confused editing job - looks as if it’s meant to cover up for an original beginning that ran too long. While Francis tosses and turns on his bed, we get flashbacks to a field of battle and memories of how he went off to be a soldier.
The task of a movie’s first 10 minutes, at the very least, is to orient us and give us a general idea of what to expect. “Brother Sun, Sister Moon” opens on confusion and complexity, which is bad enough; what’s worse is that once the opening is out of the way, the movie levels off into one note, indefinitely held.
Francis is portrayed as a wispy-bearded youth with a glow in his eye; if we didn’t know he was a saint we might think he was a little tetched in the head. That’s especially true when he leaves his sickbed and walks out onto a rooftop to catch a bird. It’s not the bird that matters; it’s the way he walks, waving his arms and teetering back and forth, always about to fall off. Surely even a saint can keep his balance.