The Last Temptation Of Christ (1988)


Bil’s rating (out of 5):  BBBB.5

USA, 1988, .  Screenplay by , based on the novel by .  Cinematography by .  Produced by .  Music by .  Production Design by .  Costume Design by .  Film Editing by .  Podcast: My Criterions.  

Extremely negative (and in some cases dangerous) publicity destroyed the reception to an intelligent and beautiful film. Based on Nikos Kazantzakis’ equally controversial novel, it tells the story of Christ (Willem Dafoe) from before the Bible records his adulthood, showing him a confused individual who awaits enlightenment from God before taking up his vocation as saviour of the world. Once he does, the film details the struggle between his human and his divine nature.  The centerpiece sequence of the film, and the reason it was so criticized by people who mostly didn’t watch it, is Christ indulging in the possibility of saving himself from death while hanging on the cross, marrying Mary Magdalene (Barbara Hershey) and living out a full life as a human man. The eventual outcome renders the film about as blasphemous as a church hymn, and emphasizes the sacrifice of a man who gave up what all other humans hold dearest in value because he believed it would save the world.  Martin Scorsese uses invigorating music and photography to give a third dimension to the kind of story that was often told in plastic ways by the likes of DeMille and Wyler.  Dafoe is terrific in the lead, with giving a haunting performance as Pontius Pilate.

The Criterion Collection:  #70

Academy Award Nomination:  Best Director (Martin Scorsese)

Golden Globe Award Nominations:  Best Supporting Actress (Barbara Hershey); Best Original Score

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