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The Third Miracle

The leaders of national "family-values" groups frequently complain that Hollywood doesn't provide enough good, clean wholesome entertainment or take religion seriously. And yet, when Hollywood finally does offer up a film with religious themes, the same folks don't get out and support it. Nevertheless, The Third Miracle is not the optimum artifact for such groups. This is a sensitive, thoughtful portrayal of religious doubt and the possibility of miracles, and though it ultimately re-affirms the value and sanctity of religious faith, it's not exactly Going My Way. This is a movie of the streets that confronts the hard issues of celibacy, helping the poor, and the efficacy of believing in a Higher Being. Directed by Agnieszka Holland (Europa Europa) from a novel by Richard Vetere, the plot follows an investigation conducted in 1979 by a priest named Frank Shore (Ed Harris), who has lost his faith, into the possibility of sainthood for a now-deceased woman named Helen O'Regan (Barbara Sukowa). The film goes into details about the process of assessing sainthood, and portrays (though one doubts the complete accuracy here) an official debate over O'Regan's possible sainthood in which Armin Mueller-Stahl plays devil's advocate. Meanwhile, the doubting Harris finds himself drawn to O'Regan's daughter Roxanne (Anne Heche), a quasi-hippie with a messy private life. Harris is particularly good in the scenes with Heche, and in fact the film is almost unimaginable without him and his brilliant, charming performance. However, the characters around him are sometimes not as well thought out. Charles Haid plays the conventional golfing, political bishop, and Mueller-Stahl is the stock-villain of the piece — or at least he would be if you could understand anything he says (it's moments like this that English subtitles on DVDs come in handy). The Third Miracle is far from perfect, but it is dedicatedly realistic and deals provocatively with some difficult issues. Columbia TriStar's DVD release of this Sony Pictures Classics film includes both anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1) and a pan-and-scan versions (with single-side, dual-layer formatting), and audio is in Dolby 2.0 Surround. Holland provides a commentary track, in which she emphasizes how important Harris was to the project, and, unlike on many director commentaries, she actually discusses the ideas behind the film. There's also an isolated music track for Jan A. P. Kaczmarek's appropriate score. Cast and crew notes, theatrical trailer. Amaray keep case.

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