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Rapid Reviews – The Last Temptation of Christ

May 16, 2009

This was a tough one to rate. The performances, the direction, the screenplay all felt very uneven. At times, I felt like I was watching a masterpiece, a true glimpse into a man about to become a god, and then a line or scene would seem almost amateurish, like the editor had accidently included the wrong take. Still, it’s a 4 star (out of 5) movie because the highs are at that place that only a director like Scorsese can go.  Also, it has Bowie as Pontius Pilate, and he nails (too soon?) the one short scene he is in. (Speaking of Bowie, he is the master of the not-a-cameo.  He swoops into these roles like a bird of prey, you can’t take your eyes off him while he’s on screen, and it’s only after his scene is over that you think, “Hey, that was David Bowie.” See Pilate, Nikola Tesla, and Phillip Jeffries for examples.)

I remember this being a very controversial film when it came out, but I can’t really figure out why. I understand that Christians didn’t like seeing Jesus making babies, but that was in the context of a temptation (the “Last” temptation.) Personally, I find the Christ story much more compelling if Jesus had to struggle and fight through the seduction of a simple life, the life of just being a man rather than a god. A super-hero Jesus who feels no doubt or fear does not interest me.  I have a feeling, however, that the controversy came from a loud and vocal minority, which I’d say is usually the case.

Better (but stranger) than The Passion. Although, in the spirit of full disclosure, I didn’t like The Passion all that much.  The filmmaking style that works wonders for a character like William Wallace is probably not the best one to apply to Jesus Christ.  If Jesus had yelled “Forgiveness!” while on the cross, while not being historically accurate, it would’ve fit perfectly with what Mel Gibson seemed to be trying to do.  Also, I like violence as much as the next guy, but the scourging of Christ went from being horrifying to comical to me being horrified that I found it comical.

And Raging Bull still holds the belt as my favorite Scorsese flick.

(You won’t find many “movie reviews” that talk less about the actual movie they purport to be reviewing than this one)

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