The spiritual humanism that runs through Olmi’s work reaches transcendent heights in this sublime adaptation of a novella by Austrian writer Joseph Roth. When a pious stranger bequeaths him 200 francs—with the caveat that he someday repay the debt in the form of an offering to Saint Therese—a homeless alcoholic (a transfixing Rutger Hauer) living under the bridges of Paris finds himself launched into a subtly surreal journey of the soul that takes him from the height of luxury to the depths of despair. Set to the music of Stravinsky and punctuated by hypnotic passages that unfold with the hushed intensity of a reverie, The Legend of the Holy Drinker confirmed Olmi’s status as cinema’s most sensitive chronicler of the downtrodden and dispossessed. 35mm print from Istituto Luce Cinecittà.
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