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The Shoes of the Fisherman
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Customer Reviews:

  • A bit dated but sincere and with many strengths
    The film in general: SHOES of the FISHERMAN is a very Roman Catholic, very 1968 look at the papal selection process and the role of the papacy in a hypothetical world political-military crisis.

    The basic plot: Kiril Lakota, the Catholic Archbishop of Lvov, is set free and sent to Rome, where he's swiftly made a Cardinal. When the pope dies, he's an unlikely dark horse. He must now deal with matters of faith, personal conscience and a brewing state of crisis - a famine in China may lead the PRC to invade the USSR and/or SE Asia. Can the Holy Father help?

    Film strengths: Awesome acting from Anthony Quinn as the new pope, Lawrence Olivier as the Soviet premier, John Guielgud as the old pope and especially Oscar Werner as a free-thinking priest and the late Leo McKern as a jealous but wise old Cardinal. Unbelievable cinematography just wonderfully highlights the unprecedented access to the Vatican.

    So-So's: The plot isn't that credible and probably overestimates the powers of the Papacy to influence temporal events. David Janssen serves a necessarily role as the journalist who explains the Vatican's inner workings but the sub-plot with his mediocre-libertine 1968 swinging is lame.

    genuine downers: The bombastic soundtrack and the inclusion of an "overture" and "intermission" are pretentious and dated. (SPOILER COMING!!!) The quick wrap-up of the plot, where all the Vatican has do do is divest itself of art treasures and property to make the world happy and safe is another lame spot. Also more than moderately unbelievable is that a crypto-Christian Soviet leader would turn to a Catholic priest from western Ukraine and not a Russian Orthodox one!

    Overall: Worth watching. The acting and camera work alone make it worthwhile. The film also has great respect for Rome, and gives a lot of special and well-presented insight into the workings of the Vatican.

    The CD: Great picture and sound. Special features limited to the old theatrical trailer by and large....more info
  • Good lesson on having faith
    Great story about searching for one's personal faith and connection to God in a vastly difficult world. Great lesson on graciously remaining strong in your faith, while still respecting others' faiths and beliefs, and learning how to work together to help others in need....more info
  • The Anti-Da Vinci Code
    Without being pro-Catholic or artificially spiritual, this film is a wonderful exploration of what it means to be "useful" in a very profound way. It's not a tract or an introduction to Catholicism; it could have been about any faith. It just "happens" to be about popes and priests.

    Anthony Quinn gives an incredibly subtle performance of a man who has spent his life as an outsider. As an archbishop, a 20-year political prisoner, and as an occupant of Vatican City, there is something lost and concerned about him that is - at first - lost on everyone.

    Unlike "The Da Vinci Code," this film does not assume that religion is a thrilling conspiracy theory. No one is troubled over the "truth" of faith, and yet questioning the details is shown as a constant dilemma, as if 2,000 years have passed and there is still debate over what to do as the world changes. The nuclear war subplot in the film is a bit dated but it is there to bring out the fact that in the world outside the Vatican, a pope is some sort of moral authority but, in the end, can't really DO anything. With no industrial clout, no military, etc., he's like a fancy-dress version of the Dalai Lama.

    What stunned me throughout this film was how much trust the film-makers put in a film with little action and a lot of dialog. There are two tense confrontations in which a priest is calmly asked to explain his writings. I was drawn in by a dramatic discussion of . . . theology? People talk, they pause, reflect, and respond.

    The film has weaknesses. There is an occasional travelogue/Rick Steves feeling to the film that seems like it's showing off the size of the film's settings. Alex North's score hits and misses. When it hits, it's wonderful; when it doesn't you can really tell. The acting is quiet and intelligent throughout but David Janssen seems to know he's there to explain what you can plainly see happening. The plot-line involving his marriage is disposable except for a scene in which Quinn offers generic and yet surprisingly intelligent advice to Janssen's wife. This scene justified the otherwise negligible subplot. Mostly.

    The film unrolls slowly. Until you get to the intermission, you enjoy the exposition but might wonder when the real film is going to kick in. By the time you hit the 90-minute mark, you're there. You don't need to be patient for this film to work but being a good listener might help.

    My "Da Vinci Code" references aren't made to slam that film. It just stuck me that a film like "The Shoes of the Fisherman" would have a hard time getting made today. Not because of the subject matter but because of it's steady pacing and complete lack of what studios need in a story before they'll pay to have it filmed. In 1968, a film like "The Shoes of the Fisherman" delivered the goods. These days, it wouldn't. As a DVD, yes. As a theatrical release, nope.

    Today, we need a murder in the Louvre, Tom Hanks and a killer albino. ...more info
  • The Shoes of the Fisherman
    An excellent story about living faith in the modern world....more info
  • A great restoration
    The restoration is even better than i thought it would be. Perfect picture and wonderful 5.1 sound. It was just like seeing this film for the first time at the Cinerama Theatre.

    When i first saw the film i was a teen. Even thought i loved the film i don't think i grasped the total meaning of it as i do now being in my 50's. I was raised Catholic but am no longer a Catholic because of the political believes that the Catholic Church has. Bible teachings are secondary to the teaching of Catholic history and tradition which i do not believe in. Knowing how i feel about the church and the riches that the church has only made me feel more like buying another DVD and sending it to Rome just for the last scene of this film.

    I guess that's why this film could be non fiction but the conclusion is really fiction. Could you really see the Pope today giving up it's riches?

    For this film and what it represents is wonderful. There is also great music, scenery, acting and directed in such a way that the film never becomes boring. This is truly at the top of my list. (for those interested, i'm now in the learning stages of being a Jehovah Witness.)...more info
  • All star casts really work.
    To put Sir Laurence Olivier, Anthony Quinn, Oskar Werner, David Jannsen, Sir John Gielgud, Leo McKern and Vittorio de Sica all in one film (and Frank Finlay in a small role!) may seem too luxurious to for reason, but they all work and work well together. Quinn and Werner are the central poles of the story, but the fabulous characters created by particularly McKern are unforgettable. In addition to the pageantry, the story carries some wonderful points to ponder theologically. And this was actually before the Vatican had elected a Polish pope. This is a must for great acting and cinematography. ...more info
  • que decepcion no es pelicula de fe
    BUeno la verdad que compre esta colection imaginandome que era de fe....pero la unica pelicula rescatable es la del milagro de fatima.,,,deberia ser mas cautelosa la WB para seleccionar los filmes... ya que la unica fe que se ve tanto en la historia de una monja como las sandalias del pescador es una fe quebrantada
    sldos...more info
  • Genuine "Classic" Film finally comes to DVD
    This is the one film I had hoped would have been released on DVD when DVDs first were invented. Based on the great novel (or so my father says, I'll borrow it from him someday) by Morris West, Anthony Quinn plays Kiril Lakota a Russian archbishop in political prison for 20 years when his old adversary the current Soviet Premier (Lawrence Olivier) releases him. He is quickly assigned to the Vatican and made a Cardinal, and befriended by a young German (in the book he's French) priest (Oskar Werner) who is currently under suspicion of herosy and is about to face a "trial" among the other Cardinals led by Italian Leoni (Leo Mckern). Suddenly the Pope (John Geilgud) dies. Werner's trial gets postponed until the college of Cardinals elects a new pope, which ends up being guess who: "Our Man, Lakota" (Quinn) making him the first non Italian pope since Hadrian VI (in real life the late John Paul II was the first non Italian since Hadrian) and learns the being pope is almost as lonely as he felt in prison. Other cast members include David Janssen as an American newscaster working for BBC covering Kiril from his release from prison, to his election and so on. A very moving film showing the ins and outs of the Vatican, so if you have just over 2 and a half hours to kill spend it on this film (especially with the disc now surfacing). By the way, the seldom seen on tv overture, intermission music and exit music are included on this disc. ...more info
  • One of the best movies I have ever seen
    Anthony Quinn is absolutely magnificent as the fictious Pope, Kiril Lakota, and Oscar Werner (sp?) makes a great counterpart as a priest at the Vatican.

    The world stands on the brink of nuclear war as China, due to famine, prepares to invade southeast Asia. Only the Pope can step in and solve the crisis with a solution unthinkable to most of his advisors at the Vatican, in a totally magnificent ending. The Pope risks everything by making an enormous sacrifice for mankind.

    While we could have done without the subplot of TV reporter George Faber cheating on his wife, the movie was totally magnificent and no longer than it needed to be. Quinn portrays a pope so well you'd swear he was really a priest if you didn't know he was an actor. Great movie; one of the best I have ever seen and it was a learning experience as well as entertainment....more info
  • The very best of Quinn
    A wonderful fiction that appears non-fiction in its development. Conveys several messages of humility and humanity. Absolutely a classic in every respect, demonstrating that God is still God, no matter in what pew or synagogue you may find yourself. Anthony Quinn is a remarkable actor who makes you marvel at his sensitivity in developing this fisherman's character. I bought three and shared two with my siblings. G.Q, Tucson, AZ....more info
  • First-rate presentation of a classic
    Not much I can add to the many reviews here already. It's a very good movie, superbly acted and directed. If some of the plot elements seem a bit forced, hang in there -- they bring it all together before the end.

    A few notes for the technically inclined:

    The disc contains all of the original "roadshow" elements, including the overture, intermission and entre' act music.

    The anamorphic picture preserves the full 2.4:1 aspect ratio of the original 35mm Panavision negative. Image quality is exceptionally clean, with terrific color and fine detail. (All the fancy Vatican costumes make this one of the "reddest" films ever released.) Scratches and dust marks have been meticulously removed.

    The big surprise is the soundtrack, which is in full stereophonic sound! Apparently they tracked down the stereo mix used in first-run theaters for this DVD release. All of the music is in wide, dramatic stereo, and there are a number of sequences with directional sound effects. Dialog is mostly monaural, typical of films from this period.

    A superior presentation of a fascinating film.
    ...more info
  • Vastly Under-Appreciated Film
    For the life of me, I cannot understand why this movie didn't receive more recognition. The book was fascinating, the story was translated to the screen beautifully, the characters were amazing, the soundtrack was awesome, and the cast...well...what superlatives does one use to describe an ensemble including Sir Lawrence Olivier, Anthony Quinn (for once rising above his usual Zorba the Greek-like character portrayals), David Jansen and Oskar Werner?

    Even if none of the above virtues appeal (and I cannot imagine that they wouldn't), Shoes of the Fisherman is an enthralling peek into the workings of the Vatican and the election of a new Pope. This would have been the perfect movie to show during the election of John Paul II (who was, indeed, the first non-Italian Pope in over 400 years...as was the character elected Pope in the movie), and after his death when the recent Pope was elected. Step-by-step, the viewer is taken through the election process, which is made all the more poignant by the characters and the intertwining of their lives.

    One doesn't have to be a Catholic to enjoy Shoes of the Fisherman. I am not, and find myself watching it at again and again. It is a well-crafted film, splendidly acted, beautifully scored and WELL worth a look-see.
    )...more info
  • Amazingly still relevant
    Probably one of the best films to offer an insight into the inner politics of the papal election. Anthony Quinn plays the role of a former imprisoned Soviet priest who finds himself thrust onto the world stage during the Cold War era. Great cameo appearances by Sir John Gielgud, Burt Kwouk and Leo McKern. ...more info
  • Shoes of the Fisherman
    Shows a standard for communities to follow in caring about all people groups. Very fine flow of plot from start to conclusion....more info
  • Laudable but long
    On the plus side, this film presents thoughtful characters in an understatedly epic scenario. It also has several very nice moments. However, the film is released at an epic length (with intermission provided on the disc) that doesn't necessarily add to its impact. Many details are included about the Vatican lifestyle being portrayed, and yet although these details are not without interest, I wonder whether they really needed such emphasis to be able to serve the story's themes.
    (spoiler alert)
    That being said, the main "solution" seen at the end of the film was very nice but was not at all surprising in light of the earlier conversation with the Chinese head of state. In light of the admonition to 'Sell all you have, give to the poor, and follow me' it seemed to make perfect sense, and yet such a consideration (of whether the church can/should follow all the guidance of its credited founder) could be applied to many more elements to make a much deeper examination of the lifestyle. There is a subtheme in which a fellow Cardinal is scrutinized for heretical statements, and that provides the supporting context for the question of possible change.

    Given that this was produced in the period of Vatican II probably gave it much more force (and of course it also helps to be able to recall the historical perspective of Cold War confrontationism and brinksmanship). These should be enough to make a very strong movie, but the sheer length doesn't exactly invite me to immediately re-watch it, as is the case with so many other films. Much of the spectacle feels quite impersonal, despite being well-filmed from a technical standpoint, and thus the film might have benefited from trimming down various scenes of crowds and ceremonies and skyline in favor of the characters and their dialogues.

    There's a decently strong core to this film (although, as I said, the ending failed to surprise me... someone said the key to great writing is a resolution that feels inevitable yet surprising, and this film's resolution did merely feel inevitable in the light of everything that had been said and shown.) There are probably many viewers, however, who will savor all the extra details and relish the "properness" of the ceremonial settings and demeanors of the protagonists. I appreciate the decent core, but found that it was a bit too diluted by postcard scenery, extra musical interludes, and the overall amount of distant restraint to cause a great amount of inspiration.

    This is one of the big differences between film and literature - this is a literate film, but the act of reading contains a certain amount of effort and engagement automatically on the part of the reader. For the much more passive medium of film, extra care needs to be taken to add atmosphere and to add the cinematic equivalents of engaging writing. For example, in that same year was another film, "The Lion in Winter," that was highly stylized and engagingly written, but delighted in the neuroses and instability of its characters. I would take the characters of "In the Shoes of the Fisherman" anyday over the royal swine portrayed in "The Lion in Winter" but the latter film was really more successful at marshalling the techniques of cinematic narrative in the service of supporting its story. If the style of Lion were applied to the plot and characters of Shoes (if the Lion wore Shoes?) then this would have been a great movie. Unfortunately, it's more relegated to several inflated works of its time (e.g. Ice Station Zebra) with running times much longer than their content actually warranted.

    Some might argue that the restraint and ritual in Shoes was actually well-suited to recreate the mood of its characters, but that would be to focus narrowly on particular emotions, moods, inclinations (e.g. ritualism, pomp) that do not actually encompass the most worthy content in the scenario. People should also consider that unlike a novel with an omniscient narrator, the film doesn't allow so much access to the inner thoughts that tend to interpret such rituals and settings for audiences in the relevantly meaningful ways.

    Thus, a partial success that we wish had been better should receive partial credit. If we were seeing a portrayal of sitting in the desert for 40 days and nights, cinema would properly require some appropriately audio-visual means of conveying all the relevant emotion, thoughts, symbols that go along with the desert trek for its participant; it's not merely enough to have things framed and lit properly (the art of still photography) or to have accompanying music and good acting (could be done on stage just as well). Cinema should combine these separate elements effectively in the service of the work's theme.

    In comparison to so many other films (at least, those since Gone With The Wind), Shoes is too distant and leisurely to produce much tension or motivation or suitably compelling moods in its viewers. Thus, despite its laudable aspects, Shoes doesn't quite utilize the cinematic medium fully to serve its themes, instead devoting too much screen time to establish some very basic aspects of its setting (e.g. the controlled disconnectedness of the Vatican) and characters (e.g. in the end there is still surprisingly little explanation of the central character's philosophy, what he learned from Siberia, what his doubts about himself were, etc.).

    A comparison with the style of Tarkovsky or Herzog or Visconti or Bergman is revealing in how such scenarios could and probably should be done, but of course those are acknowledged cinematic artists... Too bad one of them wasn't at the helm of this film; it seems to also show a difference between the European style, in which all elements can become well-tied into the meanings and motivations of the characters, and an American "storytelling" style where there is a notable detachment between the elements of setting, character, theme, and plot, in which one feels fortunate when more than one of these harmonizes in support of the others. In viewing this film, I felt occasionally fortunate, but the key for my review was that unlike so many other laudable works, it didn't beg me to immediately re-watch it. I felt that I was able to absorb everything of interest in just a single, very leisurely viewing, after which there were no mysteries or challenges left to keep exploring.
    ...more info
  • Lavish, sincere, not always convincing but still engaging epic
    As Pope operas go, The Shoes of the Fisherman is pretty enjoyable. Dated but shot on a lavish scale in the days when doorstop novels were turned into star-studded epics rather than TV miniseries, it skirts close to guilty pleasure territory without ever providing any unintentional laughs as Anthony Quinn's political prisoner is freed to act as a mediator between the Church and Russia only to find himself elected Pope. Laurence Olivier delivers the bacon as the Russian premier in one of the first of his hammy blockbuster supporting turns he took to supplement his meagre 150 a week salary at the National Theatre, with John Gielgud turning up for one scene as an ailing pontiff while Oskar Werner, Leo McKern and Vittorio De Sica get the more substantial roles. Too much screen time is wasted on David Jansenn and Barbara Jefford's marital problems, an irrelevant subplot that simply gets discarded entirely in the last third, and the political crisis in the background with a starving China threatening world war isn't entirely convincing. Yet there is some substance there even if the politics, both theological and secular, are somewhat confused - how many roadshow pictures feature a philosopher-priest (Werner) under investigation for developing the theories of Teillhard de Chardin? There's even one surprisingly touching scene between Leo McKern and Quinn near the end of the film about loneliness, and Alex North's grandiose score, incorporating as its main theme part of his rejected score for 2001, is quite magnificent. And if you've ever wanted to see Zorba the Pope reciting the Shema Yisrael, this is the movie for you.

    It's just a shame that the recent DVD runs into synch problems in the last third and that the making-of featurette has been cropped from 1.33:1 to 1.85:1, meaning that the extracts from the film in it are cropped both horizontally and vertically!...more info
  • Excellent Film
    I will not go into the synopsis of the film, but if you are interested in how a pope is elected, all the politics, protocol, and almost every step taken to prepare a papal election, this film comes very close to a real Vatican political campaing......more info