Monsieur Vincent (1947)

Not Rated   |    |  Biography, Drama, History


Monsieur Vincent (1947) Poster

St. Vincent de Paul struggles to bring about peace and harmony among the peasant and the nobles in the midst of the Black Death in Europe, carrying on his charitable work in the face of all obstacles.


7/10
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Cast & Crew

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Director:

Maurice Cloche

Writers:

Jean Bernard-Luc (screenplay), Jean Anouilh (screenplay), Jean Anouilh (dialogue)

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4 January 2000 | shrine-2
10
| Movie bio worthy of a great man
A man with the history of Vincent De Paul would daunt any biographer trying to do him justice, but Maurice Cloche and company hold a decided edge over the monumental task. To undertake it with them, they have the mercurial Pierre Fresnay to play "Monsieur Vincent." Fresnay is critic John Simon's favorite actor, and if there was nothing more than "Grand Illusion" with which to justify his choice, it would still be a worthy one. This movie merely confirms his pre-eminence and our towering esteem.

It opens with De Paul entering the village Chatillon-les-Dombes where he is to assume the vacant post of parish priest and is welcomed with a stoning as he tries to save the life of a girl who has been boarded up in the house where her mother lays dead of what the villagers suspect is the plague. After petitioning the lord of the village to help without success, he takes matters into his own hands, acquiring the help of the church's caretaker to feed the famished child and bury the dead woman. He reprimands the villagers for their lack of charity, and sets out to administer the sacraments and help the family who took the orphaned girl in. He spurs on the people to such heights of charity with his sermons that they offer the family far too much to eat or store, and recognizing the waste that would ensue, he sets out to organize the people to provide for all those wanting with necessities.

The needs of the poor that Vincent De Paul tried to fill went far beyond the French countryside settings of Chatillon and Clichy. He rubbed elbows with nobility and even the royal family. This provided him with the opportunity to minister to the poor in all states of life, whether they were prison inmates or galley workers or refugees (of which there were thousands given the state of turmoil France was in at the time) or the unemployed. While he was breaking new ground on how the Church should organize itself to serve the poor (He founded the Ladies of Charity made up of noblewomen and the Daughters of Charity made up of women of lesser station.), he was also settling moral issues (The most dramatic one is the controversy he has with the charitable organizations over the taking in of foundlings.), advising against duelling, tutoring noblemen's children, and counselling priests and establishing new outlooks on how to take in new ones. The movie can only graze the surface of the phenomenal work of this great man. A much longer runtime would be in order; it could touch on the earlier part of De Paul's life (He had been abducted by Barbary Coast pirates and sold into slavery where he remained for two years under the control of an apostate priest turned Muslim whom he later converted and with whom he returned to France.) and deal with more controversial issues (His denouncing of the Jansenists; his failed plea with the minister Mazarin to leave France to stop the war.). Given the time "Monsieur Vincent" has to pay its homages, the movie uses it laudably well. Whatever its limitations, this is one of the greatest biographical movies ever made.

With a very young Michel Bouquet as a consumptive with whom Father De Paul shares his rented room and who opens the cleric's eyes to a society fraught with misery.

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