Monday, November 5, 2007

Jesus of Montreal

Jésus de Montréal; Tragicomedy, Canada/ France, 1989; D: Denys Arcand, S: Lothaire Bluteau, Catherine Wilkening, Johanne-Marie Tremblay, Rémy Girard, Robert Lepage

Young actor Daniel is assigned by the reverend Raymond to stage a modern, fresh passion play about life and death of Jesus Christ and attract a new audience. Daniel starts searching for actors: he finds Constanze, a young mother, the unemployed Mireille, Martin, who dubs voices at erotic films, and Rene. They stage an unconventional play which gives new details about the life of Jesus, and give him the name Yeshu Ben Panthera. Even though the reverend protests, the audience is overwhelmed. When Mireille is asked to appear half-naked for casting in a beer commercial, Daniel looses his patience and chases the crew away. He then stages the Jesus play again, but the police stops it and causes a commotion in which he is badly injured. Daniel is brought to a hospital where nobody has time for him. He then exists and collapses at a subway station, dying, while the doctors transplant his organs.

"Jesus of Montreal", Denys Arcand's unusual double modern retelling of the Jesus Christ story nominated for a BAFTA, an Oscar and a Golden Globe as best foreign language film, is a very interesting tragicomedy with ironic sight gags and observational humor, but in it's chore still a deeply sober, somber and sophisticated allegory about the modern day Christianity that supposedly follows Christ, but in reality actually shows signs of a very big distance from the Messiah's teaching. The story about the unemployed actor Daniel who organizes a passion play about the life of Jesus contains some pretty clever "accessory" details, like the fantastic visual scene where the three protagonists are in a studio standing in front of a giant screen playing a documentary about the creation of the Universe, the Galaxies and Earth, but the real highlights are actually surprising parallels of Daniel's life and life of Jesus. For instance, the way Daniel "drafts" unemployed actors for the passion play is similar to the way Jesus searched and gathered his disciples; the way Daniel looses his temper when Mireille is vulgarly asked to "show her tits" during a casting for a beer commercial and chases the judges away is similar to the way Jesus casted away the money changers out of the Temple; the way the police stops the play and arrests Daniel is similar to the way Jesus was betrayed by the Pharisees and arrested; the way a greedy lawyer offers Daniel the whole city if he signs for a commercial career is similar to the way the Devil tempted Jesus. The sly way Arcand shows how the modern Christians lost their way and the faith was just used as a polygon for scoundrels seeking money and power justifies a lot of his flaws, shaky decisions, unsure directing and the ending that didn't take the last step of that concept, offering food for thought and deep, sometimes even funny reflections about society.



J Luis Rivera said...

Wow, this movie looks awesome. I'm truly curious about it now.

Marin Mandir said...

I didn't know what to think of it at first, but I actually enjoyed it once I got used to it's unusual tone.