The Film Comment Podcast: Nancy Savoca and Vincent D’Onofrio on Household Saints
More than thirty years ago, director Nancy Savoca premiered what the New York Times described as a “miracle” of a film. Household Saints was adapted from a novel by Francine Prose about three generations of an Italian-American family navigating faith and modernity in post–World War II New York City. The movie brought together an incredible ensemble cast, including Tracey Ullman, Vincent D’Onofrio, Lili Taylor, and Michael Imperioli, and told a strange and charming tale of fanatically headstrong women who were unlike any other characters to grace the movie screens of the 1990s. It all begins when Joseph, a handsome butcher (D’Onofrio), wins the stubborn Catherine (Ullman) as his wife in a game of pinochle. The first half of the film follows their relationship, which is plagued by the superstitions of Joseph’s bitter mother, while the second half follows their daughter, Teresa (Taylor), who becomes consumed by a saintly devotion to a Catholic God.
Last year, after a long and arduous effort to recover and restore the movie’s materials, a new restoration premiered at the New York Film Festival, and introduced contemporary audiences to what still feels like a cinematic novelty. With a restored Household Saints in theaters now, Film Comment Editor Devika Girish interviewed Savoca and her star, Vincent D’Onofrio, to talk about making the film, how they infused it with their own Italian-American upbringing, and the daring mix of sex and religion that the movie explores.