Two Films by Ermanno Olmi

Griffin Oleynick at Commonweal:

Legend of the Holy Drinker introduces viewers to Olmi’s mature understanding of the economy of grace and the price of salvationAdapted from a novella by Austrian writer Joseph Roth, the film tells the tragic story of Andreas, a down-and-out middle-aged man living under the bridges of modern Paris. The plot unfolds like a medieval hagiography, replete with chance encounters and sudden (often comical) twists of fortune. Events are set in motion by the unbidden appearance of a kind stranger, a recent convert to Catholicism and devotee of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, who offers Andreas the handsome sum of two hundred francs to help him get back on his feet. There’s a catch, though; the stranger gently requests that Andreas eventually return the money as a holy offering before the saint’s statue, housed in the Church of Sainte-Marie des Batignolles. Andreas, “a man of honor,” readily agrees. But week after week Andreas fails to fulfill his vow, as a series of old acquaintances (and copious carafes of wine) prevent him from making his way to Mass every Sunday.

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