Wednesday, October 3, 2007

The Last Temptation of Christ

The Last Temptation of Christ; drama, USA, 1988; D: Martin Scorsese, S: Willem Dafoe, Harvey Keitel, Barbara Hershey, Paul Greco, Verna Bloom, Victor Argo, Michael Been, Leo Burmester, Harry Dean Stanton, David Bowie
Judea, 1st Century. Jesus Christ is making a cross for Romans who want to crucify a prophet. Judas is angry at him because he works against Jews. Jesus starts suffering from headaches and visions in which God shows up, so Judas starts following him thinking he can free Judea from the Romans. But Jesus himself isn't sure if he is the messiah, not even when John the Baptist recognizes him, but starts gathering apostles anyway and performing miracles. After getting convicted by Pontius Pilate in Jerusalem, an angel girl takes Jesus from the cross and offers him a life as a normal man. Jesus accepts, marries Mary Magdalene and has children with her. As on old man, he changes his mind and decides to return and die on cross as the Messiah, non the less.

Martin Scorsese making a film about Jesus Christ? A seemingly unusual choice, but he always used Christian iconography in his movies and showed his name isn't just a synonym for mafia flicks with "The Last Temptation of Christ", an inspired psychological drama and one of the bizarrest adaptations of the life of Jesus, which sadly caused a big deal of misunderstanding and needless protests from the Church and demolished cinema theatres from religious fanatics used to polished, black and white Bible adaptations. Sadly, they didn't understand that even though Scorsese showed Jesus as a man of self-doubt, he never denied the divine dimension of the story. Actually, by showing Jesus as a real person, a one which everyone can identify with, with flaws and human elements, he actually delivered the greatest Jesus ode of all time: the genius lies in the fact that he turned every Bible cliche upside down and still stayed faithful to the canon. Although skillfully avoiding a critique of religion, the movie is filled with bizarre moments: Jesus is making a cross for a prophet, but then Judas enters his workshop, throws the cross on the ground and spits on it because Jews are crucified on it. Later Jesus observes a line full of Africans, Arabs and Indians in front of a house, who all wait to have intercourse with the prostitute Mary Magdalene (excellent Barbara Hershey, nominated for a Golden Globe as best supporting actress). In once scene, she lies naked on the bed and puts Jesus' hand on her body, but he stops her and tells her that he is the Messiah, even though he isn't sure. Not to mention the finale, where Jesus is saved by an angel girl who takes him from the cross and they walk away from the hill while the mob is still shouting in the background (but without a sound). Such poetry, beauty and spirituality rarely can be found in such a fresh, deeply personal take on the life of Jesus. Even though it isn't for everyone's taste, this is a shining film, probably the best Scorsese ever made.


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