And There Came a Man | Chicago Reader

And There Came a Man

Ermanno Olmi uses the writings of Angelo Roncalli (1881-1963) to narrate episodes from his life, following him from early childhood to his investiture as Pope John XXIII, but this 1965 film gives little sense of why he became a major reformer. Much of what we learn is unsurprising: John admires the “simplicity” of Jesus's teachings, thinks the purpose of being a priest is to help the poor, and avoids looking at street posters “where indecency might be found.” As the main character, Rod Steiger is less an actor than a stand-in, hanging around Paris and Venice in a business suit and speaking English. The odd distancing devices don't really work—especially here, where Steiger's dialogue has been dubbed in Italian and translated back into English subtitles. 86 min.

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