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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

The Legend Of The Holy Drinker aka "La leggenda del santo bevitore" [Blu-ray]


(Ermanno Olmi, 1988)




Review by Gary Tooze



Theatrical: Cecchi Gori Group Tiger Cinematografica

Video: Arrow Video



Region: FREE (as verified by the Oppo Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 2:07:36.607

Disc Size: 46,936,400,182 bytes

Feature Size: 43,311,406,656 bytes

Video Bitrate: 34.90 Mbps

Chapters: 12

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: September 25th-26th, 2017



Aspect ratio: 1.85:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video



DTS-HD Master Audio English 3434 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 3434 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 768 kbps / 24-bit)
LPCM Audio English 2304 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 2304 kbps / 24-bit
LPCM Audio Italian 2304 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 2304 kbps / 24-bit



Newly translated English subtitles for the Italian soundtrack / Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing for the English soundtrack, none



Brand-new interview with actor Rutger Hauer, recorded exclusively for this release (9:20)
Interview with screenwriter Tullio Kezich (25:47)
FIRST PRESSING ONLY: New writing on the film by Helen Chambers, author of Joseph Roth in Retrospect: Co-existent Contradictionse





Description: Winner of the prestigious Golden Lion award at the Venice Film Festival, The Legend of the Holy Drinker is another classic from the great Italian director Ermanno Olmi (Il posto, The Tree of Wooden Clogs).

Adapted from the novella by Joseph Roth, the film tells the story of Andreas Kartack, a homeless man living under the bridges of Paris. Lent 200 francs by an anonymous stranger, he is determined to pay back his debt but circumstances and his alcoholism forever intervene.

Working with professional actors for the first time in more than 20 years, Olmi cast Ruger Hauer as Andreas and was rewarded with an astonishing performance of subtlety and depth. Hauer is joined by a superb supporting cast, including Anthony Quayle (Lawrence of Arabia), Sandrine Dumas (The Double Life of Veronique) and Dominique Pinon (Delicatessen).



The Film:

A tramp, exiled in Paris and haunted by a criminal past, sees no way out of his predicament until, almost miraculously, he is offered 200 francs by a wealthy stranger whose only request is that, when he can afford it, he return the money to a chapel dedicated to St. Thérèse. A man of honour but weak will, the derelict takes the chance to rejoin a world to which he had become a stranger, finding work, keeping company with women, dining out and sleeping in beds; such luxuries, however, distract him from his obligation... Olmi's adaptation of Joseph Roth's novella is faithful and charming, filmed with a simplicity that mirrors the original's economy. As the alcoholic, though a tad too clean, Rutger Hauer effortlessly suggests the character's blend of pride, dignity and vulnerability, while Olmi eschews prosaic realism in his evocation of Paris, seen as an oddly timeless, universal city; the lyricism matches the almost magical coincidences of the plot. Indeed the film has the resonance and innocence of a parable, its religious elements widely subordinated to a story that is told with a minimum of fuss and explanatory dialogue. Quite why the film is so affecting is hard to hard to pin down: maybe it's because Olmi is so sure of his gentle, generous touch that he feels no need for overstatement.

Excerpt from TimeOut located HERE

 Rutger Hauer portrays a downtrodden alcoholic who gets a chance for redemption in this 1988 drama, one of Italian director Ermanno Olmi's few studio ventures, adapted from the last novella by Austrian-Jewish writer Joseph Roth. Andreas (Hauer), a bum who sleeps under the bridges of the Seine, is given 200 francs one day by a mysterious old man (Anthony Quayle) who asks only that he put the same amount in the poor box of a local chapel as soon as he can afford to. Andreas finds temporary work, then sets out to return the money, only to be sidetracked by assorted temptations and memories of his tormented past as a miner in Poland. Yet his wallet is always miraculously replenished. Olmi charts this inebriated pilgrim's progress with excruciating detail that borders on the oppressive. The storytelling is laconic, relying on hallucinatory images (courtesy of cinematographer Dante Spinotti), Stravinsky's piquant music, and close-ups of Hauer's befuddled yet dignified face, all of which create a despairing, morose mood that's only dispelled at the end.

Excerpt from The ChicagoReader located HERE

Image :    NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.


This is the another Arrow Blu-ray release that is being simultaneously released in both region 'A' (US) and 'B' (UK). It is the exact same package on both continents with a few minor cosmetic differences. As Michael Brooke informs us on Facebook in regards to Day of Anger: 'As the producer of Arrow's release, I can confirm first hand that the UK and US discs are absolutely identical: we only paid for one master, so there's no doubt about this at all! Which means that no matter which package you buy, the discs will play in any Region A or B setup (or Region 1 or 2 for DVD - and in the latter case the video standard is NTSC, to maximise compatibility). The booklets are also identical, but there are minor cosmetic differences on the disc labels and sleeve to do with differing copyright info and barcodes, and the US release doesn't have BBFC logos.' Olmi's Legend of the Holy Drinker Blu-ray is the same situation.


Legend of the Holy Drinker gets an impressive transfer to Blu-ray from Arrow cited as being from a "Brand-new 4K restoration from the original negative, produced by Arrow Films exclusively for this release".  It is dual-layered with a max'ed out bitrate for the 2 hour feature. This is one of my favorite 1080P transfer of the year, although it may have a tinge of blue-leaning. The image is rich with consistent and addictive grain texture. Even passive pastels colors export tightness. The contrast is beautifully layered with some pleasing depth in the 1.85:1 frame.  It's very clean with not a hint of damage or speckles. This Blu-ray is a textbook example of a film-like HD transfer. I wish they all looked this good.





















Audio :

Audio is transferred via the option of a DTS-HD Master surround (bump?) - that is robust - or faithful linear PCM mono track at 1152 kbps in both English and Italian (all three are 24-bit). There are a few instances of minor out-of-sync post dubbing from the Italian language actors, but generally the English was the track I chose. Italian-language option. There are very minor demonstrative effects - mostly the audio is represented via the score by Spanish composer José Padilla.  Like the film, it is subtle supporting gentle emotional expressions that reflect the circumstance and what Andreas is witnessing. The uncompressed does a great job and I found it added to the protagonist's characterization. There are optional English subtitles for both Italian and English (in SDH) audio versions. My Oppo has identified it as being a region 'A' + 'B'.



Extras :

Arrow provide a brand-new, 9-minute, interview with actor Rutger Hauer, recorded exclusively for this release. He talks, philosophically, about the film and the character of Andreas Kartak, with it's playing in the background. There is also a 26-minute interview with screenwriter Tullio Kezich that covers the story and adapting the novel to the screen. Quite rewarding. For the first pressing of this Blu-ray there are new writings on the film by Helen Chambers, author of Joseph Roth in Retrospect: Co-existent Contradictionse. A DVD is also included (NTSC for both packages) signifying it as 'Dual-Format'.



I was blown away by Legend of the Holy Drinker! It reminded me so much of Olmi's I Fidanzati - which is one of my favorite films of all time. Hardly relying on dialogue at all - we feel the pain and minor triumphs of one human life. So much is expressed through Hauer's expressions - memory, regret, sexual attraction, pity and a range of universal, and recognizable, emotions. Wow.  The Arrow Blu-ray provides a brilliant a/v presentation and the film is a definite keeper. Olmi is a true master storyteller. I suggest this is a must-own for fans familiar with his unique brand of cinema. I can't say enough about Legend of the Holy Drinker or this transfer. Our highest recommendation!


NOTE:  Steen says in our Facebook Group HERE: "His use of flashbacks in this one and I Fidanzati is just out of this world. Holy Drinker is probably my favourite movie of all time. I've owned the VHS, I own the Italian DVD, and now I'm just waiting for Amazon to send me this one.

According to my notes I've watched the film more than 20 times. Looking forward to another 20 in HD.

Gary Tooze

September 19th, 2016



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