Edit ModuleEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The 400-Word Review: Pope Francis: A Man of His Word

The careful documentary is a valuable document of the pontiff's philosophy. As a film, there are issues.




Photo courtesy Focus Features
 

It’s not a bold statement to assert that documentaries should be critical of their subjects — not necessarily negative, but with a bold and questioning viewpoint. Nonfiction filmmaking that tends toward the reverential is often less vital.

The Pope — historically, and currently — tends to inspire reverence.

And so “Pope Francis: A Man of His Word” is limited in what it can achieve. Its director and narrator, Wim Wenders, does not seek to investigate his high-profile subject; instead, Wenders gives Francis a loving and sturdy platform. Because this Pope is a compelling and likable figure, the results aren’t unpleasant. They are, however, remarkably flat.

Inasmuch as “A Man of His Word” is an exploration of anything, it’s a dive into the philosophy and mindset of the pontiff, born Jorge Mario Bergoglio. Wenders frames his film with ample comparison to Saint Francis of Assisi, including (oddly amateurish) recreations of the Pope’s 13th-century namesake; the film culminates in a Papal visit to Assisi.

Wenders draws a line between the Saint’s gospel of poverty and the current pontiff’s rejection of material goods and condemnation of personal wealth. Assuredly, there is something lightly radical about Pope Francis’ rejection of the ceremonial trappings of his office; perhaps the film’s best sequence watches the Pope read a list of 21st-century sins to the Cardinals of Rome, condemning the insular and onanistic tendencies of the Vatican.

While there are notable gaps in Pope Francis’ progressivism, his messages of environmentalism and the redistribution of wealth are beautifully stated and lovely to hear. And Wenders makes sure we hear them.

Slowly.

Very, very slowly.

Most of “A Man of His Word” consists of long, thoughtful shots of Pope Francis sitting and unwinding his philosophy. As such, it will no doubt be an important historical document and a valuable (and vital) viewing experience for Catholics the world over.

As a film ... not so much, I’m afraid.

Not only is there not enough storytelling in “A Man of His Word,” but the film is also quick to shy away from controversy. Francis addresses and condemns sexual assault by priests, but the matter is not explored. Francis’ soft-pedal support of the LGBTQ rights is here, but the broader church’s continued condemnations are missing. Were those subjects beyond the scope of this specific project, as Wenders envisioned it? Perhaps. Were they necessary for a true exploration of the Pope? I think so.

My Rating: 4/10
 

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow TagsEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The Latest

Hungry for Something Good, Pittsburgh? Where We're Eating in July

Lidia Bastianich Shares Her American Dream in a New Memoir

PM Dining Critic Hal B. Klein talks to the celebrated chef, restauranteur, television host and author about grandparents, foraging and the plight of refugees seeking a better life in the United States.

They Prayed to Our Lady of the Roller Coaster

Two local priests –– riding the Phantom's Revenge to promote Catholic Day at Kennywood –– create a viral video. Along the way they deliver a most unusual sermon.

The Homestead Artist with a Worldwide Reputation

Jesse Best maintains a presence in New York and Tokyo. But, he says, Pittsburgh has been 10 times better to him than any other place.

The 400-Word Review: Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

The fifth "Jurassic Park" film is fun. Empty, somewhat disappointing fun.

Local Brewery Resolves Trademark Dispute With Sass

After Pitt ordered Voodoo Brewery to stop production of its "H2P American IPA," the company relaunched the beer under a new name.

Sprout Fund Passes the Torch

50 Pittsburghers to receive $1,000 Legacy Award to carry on the nonprofit’s vision.

Pirates Can Be Show Stoppers if They Follow Brault's Lead

A Broadway musical about the life and times of the Pittsburgh Pirates? The idea might not be as farfetched as you think.

Pirates Pitcher Steven Brault has Pretty Good Pipes Too

The Pirates reliever sang the national anthem Tuesday night before the Bucs hosted the Brewers at PNC Park. It's worth watching, especially for his teammates' reaction at the end.

Crime in the South Side Has Fallen Dramatically

Illegal activity plunged along East Carson Street following several new security measures.

Fired by City Paper — Charlie Deitch Won’t Be Silenced

The former editor of the Pittsburgh alt-weekly is creating his own "more inclusive" publication.

Czechoslovakia was Forged in Pittsburgh

Rick Sebak details how the establishment of the European nation began with a meeting Downtown.

Brick by Brick: Legos Go High Art

Made entirely out of Legos, the sculptures on the display at the Carnegie Science Center’s new Scaife Exhibit Gallery range from the whimsical to the otherworldly.

Mike Chen, Dean of the Chinese Kitchen

The owner of Everyday Noodles looks to encourage more regionally specific Chinese food in Pittsburgh restaurants.

MultiStories: Real Estate – The Machesney Building

Visitors can still ogle the lavish marble and bronze interior crafted to appeal to the original owner's banker and stockbroker tenants.