And also The Gospel According to Karl Marx. Pasolini, a leftist and atheist, dips into mankind's most sacred writings with a highly suspicious selectivity, and extracts an image of Jesus Christ as a revolutionary, repainting the source material as "acquired" post-modern (f)art — Empty, no wonder it's one of the most acclaimed films of all time.
A haunting grace envelops Pasolini's adaptation of the story of Jesus. Whether a historical or spiritual figure, Jesus remains a universal icon who evokes a multitude of interpretations. Not since Dreyer's 'Joan of Arc' has a cinematic retelling arrested the senses so unequivocally.
Christmas viewing 2014, which is only partly ironic. By treating the Gospel as a work of literature/poetry, the notoriously atheistic Pasolini found surprising perspectives, cut around FX, left in legit Biblical details that a crowd-pleaser like De Mille would surely have left out, and analyzed the story for its elemental power and beauty. A requiem for faith. The only real sacrilege is Jesus's unibrow.
Saw this at the American Cinemateque. Cool to see the Bible in stark neorealism. Jesus was a bit of a brat, very moody, kind of a self-righteous dick; lots of daddy issues. In parts, Irazoqui's Jesus reminded me of Kanye West, especially when he "drives the traders from the temple."
A Cinema of Poetry, indeed. Pasolini's passion is a fever dream of atavistic, hallucinatory power, charged with wonder and menace, and maybe, just maybe, the promise of deliverance. Both Leone's dread tableaux and Jodorowksy's visionary travelogues find their source, it seems to me, in Pasolini's evocation of Jesus' world, and in his depiction of Christ as both harbinger of terrible justice and motherless child.
While I prefer the passionate takes on Jesus from Martin Scorsese and Mel Gibson, Pasolini's take on the Gospel of St Matthew is a beautiful, straightforward telling that captures His teachings with brevity and grace. Enrique Irazoqui's Jesus is more stern and far less tortured than other screen incarnations. The origins of this film are even more fascinating given Pasolini's beliefs and how he came to make this film
When a Marxist poet makes a film about the life of Jesus Christ, Jesus becomes a revolutionist and even the religious superstitions turn into poetry; The result is a masterpiece. Totally better than that non sense pornography of Mel Gibson.
Told with simplicity and quiet grace, this is a wonderful antidote to the de Mille tub-thumping or grandiose religious epics of the time, paring the Christ story down to a focused, neorealist reading. One of Pasolini's finest and probably a good starting place for his oeuvre.