Review: The Legend of the Holy Drinker

Blu-ray & DVD: The Legend of the Holy Drinker (1988)

Andreas (Rutger Hauer) is an alcoholic living in rough Paris, when he is lent 200 Francs by a stranger he promises to pay the money back to a local church. However, his alcoholism stops him as random people from his past get in the way of any success he may achieve.

Based on Joseph Roth 1939 novella, The Legend of the Holy Drinker is almost Kafkaesque in Andreas’ repeated and total inability to fulfil his promise. Director Ermanno Olmi subtly injects a resigned humour into the situation and though Olmi’s truly is enchanting and looks at loss, shame, perseverence and redemption, this is essentially Rutger Hauer’s film.

Hauer, known more for his populist action/thriller/horror parts such as Roy Batty in Blade Runner, roles in Nighthawks, The Hitcher, Ladyhawke and Blind Fury, we forget his more ‘actorly’ roles in Spetters and Soldier of Orange.

In this film Hauer delivers possibly the most understated and refined performance of his career. He is achingly misty eyed and well meaning, and totally believable despite his good looks as a man trapped in the past, living with regret and ghosts and controlled by addiction. It’s unclear if these past people are apparitions or delusions induced by chronic drinking? Holding the pocket watch his parents gave him years earlier when he set out on his own, Andreas ‘sees’ his parents in a bar. He passes out at table; when he awakes, the elderly couples are gone. Where they ever real?

Quite a heartbreaking film and a masterclass in acting from Hauer.


• Brand-new 4K restoration from the original negative, produced by Arrow Films exclusively for this release
• High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations of both the English and Italian versions of the film
• 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and Stereo 2.0 options for the English presentation with optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
• Stereo 2.0 audio for the Italian presentation with optional newly translated English subtitles
• Brand-new interview with actor Rutger Hauer, recorded exclusively for this release
• Interview with screenwriter Tullio Kezich
• Theatrical trailer

FIRST PRESSING ONLY: New writing on the film by Helen Chambers, author of Joseph Roth in Retrospect: Co-existent Contradictions.

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Review by Tina (co-host of 60 Minutes With) from a disc kindly supplied by Arrow Films.