Martin Scorsese reteamed with screenwriter Paul Schrader for this bold and controversial adaptation of the 1955 novel by Nikos Kazantzakis about the human struggles of Jesus of Nazareth just before his death on the cross.
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Last Temptation was extremely important to me growing up despite the fact that I was a confirmed died-in-the-wool atheist and that Scorsese's film is earnestly concerned w/ faith in a divinity. Looking at it again I am struck by how utterly profound and philosophically rich the movie is on the one hand and just how nakedly odd it is on the other. Valuable lessons about faith in the face of all kinds of torment.
The 80s synths haven't aged well, and casting New Yawk street guys was either insanely wrongheaded or some kind of brilliant weirdness. Scorsese supposedly had to shoot it in a rush, and often times, it shows. But this uneven film is also an essential philosophical statement: provocative rather than pandering, hallucinatory, sincere, and with little precedent in American cinema. The last act is truly haunting.
I thought this film was overlong and had some poor pieces of acting (Harvey Keitel), but Scorsese did shoot it beautifully and Dafoe was brilliant as Jesus. Another thing I picked up on which may be a slight theme for religious movies is the feeling that I am in a classroom while watching it, if you remember your old RS lessons you used to watch films like this often and it all felt amateur on an epic scale
Jesus is the ultimate Scorsese protagonist; he is bound by rules and burdened by guilt. Like in most of Scorsese's movies, the finale packs an intense punch. Scorsese's Jesus is Travis Bickle armed not with a gun but with an olive branch. Plus the film is beautifully shot and staged; phantasmagorical. Though it's a bit long, and the accents are distracting these hardly detract from this masterpiece.
I was so shocked at how utterly fantastic this film was. Honestly I think it's one of Scorsese's best movies period. Defoe is just amazing and it's shot extremely well. I found what the film had to say on the nature of faith to be not only extremely intelligent, but also extremely moving. I haven't seen many films about Christ, but I doubt any of them could come close to this! One of the best films I've ever seen.
Keitel's streetwise, resentful Judas is the key to this film. Judas is the most interesting character here precisely because his betrayal is always couched in the light of his worldliness; after all, what is worse than to be compelled by your leader to betray him, and to enter into the betrayal knowing full well the hate which will be accorded you?