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  Last Temptation of Christ, The Jesus II: The God ManBuy this film here.
Year: 1988
Director: Martin Scorsese
Stars: Willem Dafoe, Harvey Keitel, Barbara Hershey, Verna Bloom, Andre Gregory, Harry Dean Stanton, Gary Basaraba, Victor Argo, Michael Been, Paul Herman, John Lurie, Leo Burmester, Roberts Blossom, Irvin Kershner, Tomas Arana, Nehemiah Persoff, David Bowie
Genre: Drama, Historical, Fantasy
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Jesus (Willem Dafoe) works as a carpenter in Israel, and one of his duties is to craft the crosses used for crucifixion, though this makes him deeply unpopular with his fellow Jews. His friend Judas (Harvey Keitel) is often trying to persuade him to take a stand against the injustice of the Roman rulers who have dominated the region for a long while now, not least because Jesus is suffering terrible headaches and hears voices in his head imploring him to take on his destiny. When he goes to a local prostitute, Mary Magdelene (Barbara Hershey) and asks her for forgiveness, it's the first step...

One of the most controversial movies ever made, for some reason in spite of it being directed by one of the great American filmmakers of his era, all the publicity wasn't enough to translate The Last Temptation of Christ into a hit, indeed it was a complete flop on release. This could have been because Martin Scorsese's fans were not in general interested in his closely held religious views, while those who had such faith themselves had made up their minds that his efforts here were nothing short of blasphemous. Thus the audience for what was actually a slow, contemplative deliberation over how to keep the tenets of the Christian God when the world of mankind seemed set on overturning them was very few in number.

The main sticking point with the believers was that this was a movie where Hollyweird finally went too far and showed Jesus Christ having sex, and not only that but as part of a vision as he was crucified, making it appear as if Jesus was taking his mind off the burden of humanity's sins by enjoying sexual fantasies to pass the time. Or that's what some of the faithful would have you accept, and the mixture of carnality with the higher, spiritual side of the human experience was never going to be a happy one for them. Yet this scene took up mere seconds in a film lasting over two-and-a-half hours, leaving Scorsese and his screenwriter Paul Schrader dismayed that all their good intentions were trampled underfoot by outrage.

Of course, if you did try to take The Last Temptation seriously you might have a better time of it with Nico Kazantzakis's source novel, because translated to the screen it took on a po-faced, over earnest and at too many points rather ridiculous appearance. You could tell the filmmakers' sincerity was there - Scorsese had wanted to make a Christ movie since he was a child - but in between the acres of talk which did not so much clarify as obfuscate, we had to ponder the embellishments to the Gospels which a title card nervously told us were not the chief origin of the script, the novel was. So when Jesus takes out his heart to offer to the doubting disciples, or the Devil is incarnated as an exploding snake, it was difficult not to smirk at their missing the mark.

Which is not a good way to feel about any talented filmmaker's work, never mind Martin Scorsese, but when Keitel played Judas with an inexplicable ginger perm, you had to wonder if he had been the right man for the job, or indeed if anyone might have been. To be fair, when the deviations from the scripture happened they did wake you up a bit, not thanks to distracting you from the feeling the rest had bitten off more than it could chew, but because at least we were not seeing the same old thing in a Jesus movie. When David Bowie appears as Pontius Pilate and tries to reason with our hero, he makes him come across as yet another fanatic, when Lazarus is killed by Saul (Harry Dean Stanton) it adds an interesting twist, and that lengthy sequence for the final act where Christ has his last temptation showed promise. The theme of that ultimate sacrifice with all the persecution that accompanies it, is not something to be rejected because its rewards are so much more than the suffering was really what you should have taken away from this. But did you? (World) music by Peter Gabriel.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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Martin Scorsese  (1941 - )

American writer and director who emerged as one of the brightest and most vital of the generation of filmmakers who came to prominence during the 1970s with his heartfelt, vivid and at times lurid works. After deciding against joining the priesthood, he turned to his other passion - movies - and started with short efforts at film school until Roger Corman hired him to direct Boxcar Bertha.

However, it was New York drama Mean Streets that really made Scorsese's name as a talent to watch, and his succeeding films, Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore (which won Ellen Burstyn an Oscar and is the only Scorsese movie to be made into a sitcom) and the cult classic Taxi Driver (starring Robert De Niro, forever associated with the director's work) only confirmed this.

Unfortunately, his tribute to the musical New York, New York was a flop, and he retreated into releasing concert movie The Last Waltz before bouncing back with boxing biopic Raging Bull, which many consider his greatest achievement. The rest of the eighties were not as stellar for him, but The King of Comedy and After Hours were cult hits, The Color of Money a well-received sequel to The Hustler and The Last Temptation of Christ kept his name in the headlines.

In the nineties, Scorsese began with the searing gangster saga Goodfellas, and continued with the over-the-top remake of Cape Fear before a change of pace with quietly emotional period piece The Age of Innocence. Casino saw a return to gangsters, and Kundun was a visually ravishing story of the Dalai Lama. Bringing Out the Dead returned to New York for a medical tale of redemption, and Gangs of New York was a muddled historical epic.

Still the Best Director Oscar eluded him, but the 2000s gave what many saw as his best chance at winning. Slick Howard Hughes biopic The Aviator didn't make it, but remake of Infernal Affairs The Departed finally won him the prize. Outlandish thriller Shutter Island then provided him with the biggest hit of his career after which he surprised everyone by making family film Hugo - another huge hit.

This was followed by an even bigger success with extreme broker takedown The Wolf of Wall Street, and a return to his religious origins with the austere, redemption through torture drama Silence. He also directed Michael Jackson's Bad music video.

 
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