The Last Temptation Of Christ
"What's good for man isn't good for God!"
The film of the century for our more religiously inquisitive minds was directed by the same man who gave us "Goodfellas", one of the more powerful depictions of the corruption and downfall for the Italian-American family? What a surprise!
Well, let's be honest first and foremost, since most of our religiously inquisitve minds are anything but, I'm not exactly from the same vein as most atheists claim to be. In fact, if I were, I'd be strongly attempting to create severe stigmata.
"Whosoever trusteth in the Lord, happy is he."
Oh boy, divine intervention can result in love, life, happiness, and crucifiction! Epilepsy and Tourrette Syndrome, as well, if you are one of those ministers that we all know and love so much.
So the possibilities are really endless I guess, for Christians, and the film "The Last Temptation Of Christ" really, really proves it.
Whoever did the casting for this movie, must have been on a serious acid trip. David Bowie plays Pontius Pilate, and that's one of the more LOGICAL acting roles assigned. I have to say, though, that Willem Dafoe couldn't have been a better choice for Jesus Christ, but that's an opinion that a lot of "Boondock Saints" fans will find hard to believe. Harvey Keitel is Judas? Excuse me, but I really, really didn't even see it coming, even after I had already read the credits. By the end, I was sincerely proud of him, but for the first hour or so of the movie, he made me want to shoot my foot. I guess that it's no surprise that "Hershey Kisses" could be something of a metaphor, either, but where the hell was Barbara in, uhhh, the entire stretch from "Boxcar Bertha" to this movie? I guess "Hoosiers" must have really pushed the envelope forward...
So with all of the obligatory E!-style ranting on actors aside, let's return to the things about this film that actually count. Paul Schrader and Martin Scorcese. Oh, good point, maybe the 100's of people that contributed to the Bible kind of matter in some way, too. Not in the way most conservatives would be interested in hearing about though. No, this film was based on NOVEL by an Italian named Nikos Kazantzakis.
My main point that I'd make with any first-time viewer of this film would be; prepare to be overwhelmed. Not only does this stray from the original doctrine, but it seriously agitates our predefined image of Christ. The portrayal of him here, is less than glorious. He first appears as a torchered sinner who's employment depends on the persecution of his fellow Jews. We are often put, throughout the film, into a state of confusion over his relationship to women. To top it all off, we actually don't even get a sense if he even dies at the end.
The most potent scene to me, was his escape to the desert, where he is tempted in many ways by sin. Of course temptation must have been flaunting around with him from the very beginning, where he admits to a rabbii that he is a habitual liar and full of hatred in his heart. Where'd all that wine COME from anyway? Also, important to note are the scenes with John the Baptist, his exile from Nazareth, and his promise to "baptize with fire".
The cinematography, by Michael Ballhaus is unbelievable as usual by him. There are scenes of exquisite beauty, as well as stunning visual testimonies of pain and hardship. The evantual sex scene between Mary and Jesus was done very tastefully, and at times you can find yourself lost in the ancient world despite the low budget cost for the film.
A couple of modern day miracles actually occurred during the making of the movie as well, and were allegedly totally unplanned by the producers. For example, the final scene where the camera shows Jesus on the cross, fades to white. Scorcese himself has adamently told that this sequence happened by mere coincidence, and that the sun was just reflecting at a certain angle to create the effect. Also, interesting to mention, Willem Dafoe was temporarily blind for part of the shooting, for a three day period.
Cynics of the film aside, this was easily one of the most spiritual movies ever made. Unquestionably thought provoking, and at it's peak a startling unstereotypical biography of one of humankind's most revered and idolized characters. A story, that with the duality of sin and love combined to almost complete perfection, has rarely been told with such outstanding results.
"So Lazarus, how do you feel?"
"The Last Temptation Of Christ" (1988)