Few films have literally induced a headache during my cinematic tenure, but Saint Francis certainly did. Presumably taken as an abstract, modern updating to the story of Francis of Assisi, the late 1200s Catholic visionary who started the Franciscan order, Ezra Gould's film strings together an endless array of garish imagery and mild sexploitation into a completely disjointed, uninteresting nightmare on-screen.
Francis Bernard is a lost, hallucinatory soul, an emotionally bereft "cutter" who uses his cocaine-filled blood to draw Rorschach-style images in his sketchbook while flipping through the channels of bizarre late-night television. His sister Soul (Dita Von Teese) lives out a more profitable profession as something of a female pimp ("madame"), while his youngest brother operates as a numbed, violent drug dealer. Their lives connect into a network of chaos that involves never-ending narcotics, violence, and sexuality, all of which seem to hurt far more than satisfy any of the Bernard family. Is it all self-destructive, or just the product of a tumultuous past?
Supposedly, that's what you can expect from a family with a crazed cult televangelist for a father and a mother (also played by Von Teese) that shot herself at a young age. Through sporadic television clips played in the background, ones involving UFOs, the ravings of a violent preacher (later discovered to be Francis' father), and other bizarreness, Francis' life travels down a surreal collective of images that seem directly affected by his hectic family life -- and we begin to wonder if they're real or imaginary, once we learn that Francis is stuck in the middle of a grizzly surgical operation. Enter more gruesome imagery as the flick progresses, from bloody hearts and strangulation to murder, as well as several sex-for-sex-sake scenes featuring Stormy Daniels and others -- including one of the most abhorred, annoying sequences I've seen featuring a loud coke head yelling at two girls getting it on for a camera.
As a result, Saint Francis transforms into 72 minutes of tedious nonsense, a decoupage of nudity and softcore porn mannerisms that surrenders promising conceptualization for oddity. Though hallmarked by a semi-engaging performance from Charles Koutris as an emo-driven Francis and the natural, overshadowed attractiveness of B-movie goddess Dita Von Teese, everything else about the flick -- from bloated visual aesthetics to eyeroll-worthy satirical caricatures and stilted dialogue -- builds into an erratic mixed bag out of the brazen, maddening flashes of Francis' construed mind. It's one of those movies where the viewer can see the stream of consciousness from director Ezra Gould and halfway grasp it, but only wish for its deliberately incoherent nature to make more sense.
Video and Audio:
Though stated as being "Widescreen 16x9 Enhanced", Saint Francis is, in fact, framed at 1.33:1 -- presumably the original aspect ratio of the film. Though clearly low-budget, the clarity of several of the homemade video sequences can be impressive. In others, however, noise and blurriness soak into the picture on a fairly frequent basis. Color solidity is fine, while the noticeable lack of aliasing helps the film's visual style.
A Dolby 2.0 track accompanies the film, which stays unexciting but serviceable throughout. At times, vocal clarity can be a little low -- almost of inaudible levels on a few occasions, depending on the filming location. The sound effects and stabs at ambient musical cues pour through decent enough. It matched the visual treatment well without offering anything of note. Subtitles are not available on this release, as are any other language options.
Accompanying the film are two Trailers, both more interesting than the film's entirety, a Stills Gallery, and a few Deleted Scenes / Raw Footage -- including the six-minute entirety of Stormy Daniels' girl-on-girl scene ("Fugly Show") and five minutes of core footage of a woman showering before an ominous blue light comes for her ("Shower Abduction"). Along with that, some Redemption Contact Information and like-minded Redemption Trailers are made available.
Saint Francis takes a crumb of a compelling idea, then scrambles it into a bloody, flesh-colored whirlwind of discombobulated ideas with Dita Von Teese and others attempting to "sexify" its misgivings. It'll satisfy a fix for bizarre, softcore oddness; however, the muddled substance underneath its overblown nature will only work as a curiosity for some -- but, for most, will be worth Skipping for sanity's sake.
Thomas Spurlin, Staff Reviewer -- DVDTalk Reviews | Personal Blog/Site