Friday, April 17, 2009

Mel's and Marty's Jesus: a reappraisal

From Joshua Land the best thing I've read on Scorsese's The Last Temptation of Christ and Gibson's The Passion of the Christ. Despite their differences, the films share much in common. Not least, as Land notes, the two singular artistic visions that drove these problematic projects to completion. I agree with his conclusion:

For much of Christian history, many doctrinal traditions have frowned upon any attempt at artistic representations of the person of Jesus. Even—or perhaps especially—in an era defined by a seemingly infinite proliferation of images, it’s a position worth taking seriously, and not only by the devout. There’s a reason that very few cinematic portrayals of Jesus have been widely hailed as aesthetic successes. Some subjects are so daunting as to defy direct representation; like the sun, they’re best examined obliquely. Scorsese has indicated that he doesn’t consider Last Temptation among his most successful films, musing that he’s dealt with religious material more successfully at an allegorical level elsewhere. It’s hard to disagree. As a fictional parable about sin and redemption, The Last Temptation of Christ is no Raging Bull. And as a meditation on Christ’s suffering and death, The Passion of the Christ doesn’t hold a candle to Au Hasard Balthazar.

Talk About the Passions: Looking beyond the culture-war controversies of two Jesus movies

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