Friday, March 13, 2009

The Last Temptation of Christ

The Last Temptation of Christ is a 1988 Martin Scorsese film adaptation of the 1951 Nikos Kazantzakis novel with the same name. The Husband and I had seen this one before and were honestly confused by the rabid controversy it stirred up. The Daughter and The Younger Son saw it for the first time tonight. We watched the Criterion edition DVD but were not tempted by the special features. Some other time perhaps. Willem Dafoe plays the tortured confused Jesus figure. Barbara Hershey is Mary Magdalene (Jesus' love interest), and Harvey Keitel is Judas (betraying Jesus at Jesus' own insistence). David Bowie is Pontius Pilate. Peter Gabriel does the music, which none of us like but which Rolling Stone does like.

The Younger Son finds it the goofiest Jesus movie he's seen so far, calling it the It's a Wonderful Life version of the story. The Daughter is also not impressed. Maybe it's the talking snakes...

Veoh has it [but not as of 2/17/2010].


Roger Ebert says it is "a serious and devout film" and closes his review by saying that "The film has offended those whose ideas about God and man it does not reflect. But then, so did Jesus." He has this to say about the furor that still rages:
The astonishing controversy that has raged around this film is primarily the work of fundamentalists who have their own view of Christ and are offended by a film that they feel questions his divinity. ... Among those who do not already have rigid views on the subject, this film is likely to inspire more serious thought on the nature of Jesus than any other ever made.

Images Journal praises it, closing their review with this:
Those who haven’t seen the movie in some time will be surprised how well it’s aged. Every scene packs a punch, and the last temptation, which spans the movie’s final forty minutes, is as devastating as ever. What a joy it is to be able to experience this movie. And to be able to own it is a real treat considering that it is still banned in certain countries (and at Blockbuster Video). Protestors aside, The Last Temptation of Christ has become a modern day classic. calls it "deeply heretical and blasphemous" and condemns it:
my conclusion is that the religious critics who think Last Temptation a bad film are correct. Does this mean that the fans and film critics who think it a creative masterpiece are wrong? I’ve made my case for the film’s spiritual bankruptcy, but what about its value as art?
Poisonous morally and spiritually, it is also worthless as art or entertainment, at least on any theory of art as an object of appreciation. As an artifact of technical achievement, it may be well made; but as a film, it is devoid of redeeming merit.

The BBC reviewer says it's "a powerful film that has stood the test of time". The New York Times says it "exerts enormous power". calls it "a lovely, measured and deeply earnest work". Criterion has an essay. It's #63 on the list of 100 most spiritually significant films.

4/21/2009: /film reports the movie's available at hulu, [but not as of 2/17/2010].

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