Friday, September 10, 2004

Last night, I checked out Martin Scorsese's 1988 film The Last Temptation of Christ from the public library. I'd never seen it; I was a freshman in high school when it came out, (a freshman in a Catholic high school), and seeing a Biblical movie-- any Biblical movie outside of Religion class is not an idea that would have appealed to me at the time. Plus, being fifteen years old, I think most of it would have been lost on me. But now, being so much wiser and infinitely more mature....

I was surprised by how much I liked it. I'm not much of a Scorsese fan, but I thought it was well made and the directing and acting weren't too heavy-handed, (as is the case with most Biblical films. Speaking of, remember when Richard Gere played King David? Dude, that was funny). Here are some of my thoughts:
  • Willem Dafoe, you may remember, played Jesus. Dafoe's other notable performances (in my mind, anyway), include a greaseball bad guy in the Diane Lane "rock n' roll fable" Streets of Fire, and of course, the excellent Auto Focus ("Bob Crane's a loser!") He did a good job as Christ, I thought, but being Dafoe, he was most believable in the "wigging-out" scenes, like the whole going-postal-on-the- merchants-in-the-temple part. Yeah, he nailed that one. (Oops! Bad pun.)
  • Mary Magdalene was played by Barbara Hershey, who I will forever remember as the woman from Beaches. Not that I loved that movie or anything, but you gotta remember--I'm a chick. In the late eighties, I think it was required by the government for all females over the age of twelve to see Beaches a few dozen times. Seriously. Look it up. Anyway, Hershey was sporting this massive Cher wig throughout TLToC--a glaring reminder that this puppy was definitely made in the eighties.
  • Okay, Scorsese? I realize that this was probably the fault of the costume designer or whoever, but women with flawless manicures and shaved pits? Not happening in the Jesus times, dude.
  • Harvey Keitel (the cop from Thelma and Louise) played Judas, and another guy I recognized from a gangster movie (probably Goodfellas) played Peter. Keitel was his usual aces, but again--Scorsese? (and this one is most definitely your fault)....I'm not a theologian or anything, but I'm like, 99.9% sure that Jesus's desciples did not have Brooklyn accents. Seriously, I mean--ever hear of a dialect coach?
  • Harry Dean Stanton (Molly Ringwald's dad in Pretty In Pink), played Saul (Jewish zealot who converted to Christianity and was later known as the apostle Paul). Jeez, I understand this now, but looking back, it's no wonder I had such a hard time in religion class.
  • Dude, if you're a sheep you don't want to be anywhere near Isreal during Passover. If I wasn't already a vegetarian, this one particular scene would have done me in. Holy shit. (Literally!)
  • David Bowie was in this! I totally forgot about that! He played Pontius Pilate, and--I'm not just saying this cause he's David Bowie--he kicked ass! He's a damn fine actor. And to be completely shallow for a sec--he looked really good. I think he looked his best in the eighties. In the seventies during his Ziggy Stardust period I always thought he looked too gaunt (not to mention the orange mullet. Ick). But in the eighties he had updated his look; he started wearing the suits with the skinny ties and that blond pompadour (I guess I'm mostly remembering him from his Serious Moonlight tour, circa '83). Even if you're not a Bowie fan, you gotta admit. He looked hot.
  • During the dream sequence/hallucination part towards the end of the film, when Jesus sees the apostle Paul witnessing to a group of people about his conversion, how he "saw the light" and all that, Jesus basically calls him out and says, "I never appeared to you, why are you saying this?" etc. and Paul (Molly Ringwald's dad) argues with him that "the people" need hope and something to believe in, and that basically the message is what's important, not the truth, etc. Although I might be reading too much into this (and I'm sure I'm not the first person to come up with this theory), I saw this scene as Scorsese's sly indictment of TV evangelists and their ilk (remember, this was the eighties--you had Oral Roberts on TV begging for money, the PTL scandal with Jim and Tammy, shysters with the fake healings, cashing in on people's beliefs, etc.) If you ever see the movie, pay attention to that scene. It's pretty cool.
  • Oh, and the synthesizer music over the closing credits? Yeah. It was definitely the eighties.

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