Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5.
Italy/France/USA, 2005. Wild Bunch, Associated Film, Central Films, De Nigris Productions, Surreel. Screenplay by Abel Ferrara, Mario Isabella, Simone Lageoles, Scott Pardo. Cinematography by Stefano Falivene. Produced by Roberto De Nigris, Fernando Sulichin, David Hausen. Music by Francis Kuipers. Production Design by Frank DeCurtis. Costume Design by Frank DeCurtis, Silvia Nebiolo. Film Editing by Patrizio Marone, Adam Mcclelland, Fabio Nunziata, Langdon Page, Yuka Ruell. Toronto International Film Festival 2005. Venice Film Festival 2005.
Abel Ferrara goes for just the right tone, execution and attitude in this absorbing film, but it’s a shame he doesn’t go as far with its concept as he could have. After completing the filming of a religious epic that bases its presentation of the life of Christ on the recently found gospel of Mary Magdalene, a director (Matthew Modine) returns to the United States to promote his movie amid huge controversy while his leading actress (a mesmerizing Juliette Binoche) abandons her career and seeks enlightenment in Israel. The film then switches to the story of a television journalist (Forest Whitaker) who interviews Modine for his weeklong program on religion in the modern day and probes into his own personal strife with his pregnant wife (Heather Graham, who is excellent) and struggles with faith. Ferrara could have made a much more explosive and educational film, but instead touches the surface of everything he shows and then leaves the rest to the viewer’s own thoughts; a tame Abel Ferrara is definitely not something one either expects or wants. The scenes with Binoche portraying Mary Magdalene (who, as we learn here, was more likely another disciple of Jesus’ and not the whore of yesteryear or lover of modern day thinking), are fantastic.