Thoughts on The Last Temptation of Christ

Friday, March 18, 2011 10:27 PM By Simon

-Willem Dafoe stars as, uh, Jesus, Martin Scorsese (damn you, last name! DAMN YOU!) directs, a telling/retelling of Jesus's life, death, and subsequent others.

-The thing is, this is probably one of M.S.'s most personal films. And it shows. There is not one reel that isn't so overwhelmingly naked, it makes you feel like you're intruding. Every shot has been composed to perfection, but for the sake of finally telling a story you've been waiting for your entire life. It's so flawlessly raw sometimes, yet elsewhere, deliriously satisfied with it's own existence. Or, that's not a good way of putting it. Because you'll never have a scene of someone hanging out, doing nothing. There'll be a subtext, or a conversation about religion, or at the very least a tortured voiceover by Dafoe. Here is a case for vanity projects everywhere. Here is a film that knows, loves, hates, ogles, and leans into its subjects with reverence and imagination and, after all is said and done, complete and total faith in it.


-The score is lovely. Very bizarre.

-And...okay, another thing. Rarely does M.S. (his name until I can spell it properly) inject comedy into the mix (intentionally, anyway), so serious is he about the whole deal. But then, he isn't afraid to show Jesus as a man. He gets scared, he gets angry, he gets happy, and a lot of the times, he just seems schizophrenic, going on about voices and the need to drown the pain out with self-punishment (hence the building of crosses used for crucifixtions, which I don't know if that's canon or not). And the Judas thing. I mean, it's pretty much entered common lexicon that Judas means douchenozzle who you shouldn't let watch your kids if you don't want them taken in for dealing or whatever, he's bad. But here, he's Jesus's most loyal deciple (played by a gingerfied Harvey Keitel, no less), and only rats him out under direct orders from the man himself, so that he may fulfill the prophecy (cause this is like Star Wars, right?), and near the end (amid the semi-infamous hallucination parts), he actually calls Jesus a traitor for not dying.

-Barbara Hershey plays Mary Magdeline, and one senses that M.S. is quite happy about this. Her introduction is both one of the intentional and unintentionally funny bits.

-John Lurie is some guy named Paul or whatever, a Saint, I think, and Harry Dean Stanton, who I thought was Dennis Hopper until the credits.

-DAVID BOWIE HOLY SHIT was the guy who sentenced Jesus to death and, curiously for an English-language period piece, is the only one with an English accent. Because it's his. Anyway, he played the guy as kind of sympathetic towards Jesus (besides the obvious 'King of the Jews' thing, and I'm still confused over this: how can we be blamed for Jesus's death? He was Jewish, too. I don't see how Jews could've prevented this shit either way. Better yet, why not blame the Romans, those pricks.), but very much into the status quo of things, but he's so pragmatic and reasonable-sounding, and you almost side with him. In fact, he's kind of cool, level-headed and such. And he's played by David Bowie. Of course I dig him.

-Willem Dafoe. Of course. He's playing Jesus. Hard to criticize. So I won't.

-Every time Jesus and Judas were onscreen together, I just wanted one of them, so straight-faced, to say 'bros before hoes'. Then fist bump. Or make out, the way they were going at each other.


Robert said...

WAIT...Barbara Hershey as Mary Magdalene?! Okay, I'm going to stop putting off watching this movie. I need to see it like, right now. Haha

March 19, 2011 at 5:05 AM
Hal said...

David Bowie's the man.

I think 'Jesus of Montreal' is the better late 80s weird Jesus film.

March 19, 2011 at 12:59 PM
Andrew K. said...

Robert! You haven't seen this? I love this one, so accurate about the "nakedness" Simon.

Scorsese is God.

I wonder if that's in bad taste to say that...

March 19, 2011 at 4:27 PM
Simon said...

Robert: Do it do it DO IT.

Hal: Indeed he is. That is the correct sentiment. As for Jesus of Montreal, how so?

Andrew: Naw.

March 19, 2011 at 5:38 PM
SugaryCynic said...

I've never been big on Jesus flicks but I am a Scorsese fan and this review actually kind of makes me want to watch it. I had no idea that Bowie was in it. He seems to be becoming your Sean Connery lol.

March 20, 2011 at 8:21 AM
Luke said...

This movie was so different from what he usually does. Barbara Hershey was so great. It definitely was hard to take considering Willem Defoe is always so endlessly creepy. But the choices Scorsese made were indeed so personal-seeming. Loved it. (Oh, except for Keitel. I never knew New Yawkers wandered around the Middle East in long-ago times. The accent was atrocious.)

March 21, 2011 at 10:19 AM
Unknown said...

Hershey owns this movie! I love that Marty got actors that mostly play villains, gangsters or fuck ups for this. And Bowie is PERFECTION.

March 21, 2011 at 5:36 PM
JL said...

I'm atheist so religious movies don't usually intrigue me, but I need to get around to seeing this some time. Yes, that means I've never seen it. I still have it in my Instant queue on Netflix, but I keep putting it off.

March 23, 2011 at 3:10 AM
Anonymous said...

I really did not like this one. It seems so wooden.

March 24, 2011 at 9:53 AM
Bryce Wilson said...

Nicely done. One of my all time favorites.

March 26, 2011 at 10:26 PM
Simon said...

Sugary: Becoming? He is, dear child.

Luke: Well, at least he broke the tension. Plus, it confirms me and Sister's long-gestating theory that Judas was Jesus' punk friend who beat up guys until they went all disciple.

Jose: Holy shit, the casting here is so perfect, it's unbelievable.

JL: You should get to it, it's not necessarily a religious movie, or even a Bible primer, more like a philisophical bilden-whatsit (you know, coming-of-age) that uses possible the most well-known story on the planet to explore themes of hope, faith, madness, and morality. Or whatever.

James: How so?

Bryce: Thanks.

April 4, 2011 at 10:31 PM
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