Peter T Chattaway

The Gospel According to St. Matthew (1964)

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Pasolini's film is by far the best Jesus film I've ever seen, and I can't imagine it being dubbed; avoid that version like the plague. The original region-1 Image release is OOP, so I highly recommend the region-2, http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B00006G9XK' target="_blank">

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Thanks, Ken. FWIW, the Tartan DVD is also a much better print and digital transfer.

According to DVDBeaver, while the Image disc is OOP, there is a region-0 version by Water Bearer with non-removable subs and a "good documentrary" on Pasolini as an extra. It sounds like Netflix is dolling out some public domain travesty.

Edited by Doug C

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Pasolini's film is by far the best Jesus film I've ever seen...

I once felt the same way about the film, but have since changed my mind. I am finding it more and more difficult to peg the "best" crown on any one Jesus film, as the literary (and canonical) necessity of more than one account seems to bleed into filmed adaptations of Jesus' life as well.

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nd one of the notes on this version is that even though it is seven minutes shorter than the official running time, there are no frames missing.

Sounds like PAL speed-up, which converts 25 fps to 24fps and, therefore, loses 4% of its run time.

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Pasolini's film is by far the best Jesus film I've ever seen...
I once felt the same way about the film, but have since changed my mind. I am finding it more and more difficult to peg the "best" crown on any one Jesus film, as the literary (and canonical) necessity of more than one account seems to bleed into filmed adaptations of Jesus' life as well.
In terms of specifically cinematic interest, I think very few Jesus films could hope to hold a candle to Pasolini's film. The only plausible candidates I can think of (of the Jesus films I've seen) are the 1905 Life and Passion, The Last Temptation of Christ and The Passion of the Christ -- and, of those, I wouldn't really count the latter two, since The Passion of the Christ is not a Jesus film per se, but a passion play, and The Last Temptation of Christ is also, I would argue, not a Jesus film but something else. (I haven't yet seen Rossellini's The Messiah.)

Yet like Mike I find The Miracle Maker to be perhaps the most moving Jesus film on repeated viewings. It may not be a masterpiece of world cinema, but it's an extraordinary little film in its own right, beautifully animated and with something about it that works on a level that live-action films perhaps never can. The Gospel of John, too, is quite good, though marred by a pedestrian translation and a few failures in directorial imagination.

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I've championed The Miracle Maker since it was first broadcast on TV and I'm a big fan of Rossellini's The Messiah, but neither films have the immediacy or human potency of Pasolini's film, whose faces and emotional conviction continue to haunt me; no other Jesus films beyond these three have been significantly formative to my spiritual imagination. (For passion plays, I'll stick with Rohmer's Perceval.)

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Doug, have you written in detail about Pasolini's film anywhere?

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I've championed The Miracle Maker since it was first broadcast on TV and I'm a big fan of Rossellini's The Messiah, but neither films have the immediacy or human potency of Pasolini's film, whose faces and emotional conviction continue to haunt me; no other Jesus films beyond these three have been significantly formative to my spiritual imagination. (For passion plays, I'll stick with Rohmer's Perceval.)
Heh. Funny you should mention the passion play in Rohmer's Perceval -- in my review of Pasolini's film I compared Pasolini's depiction of the passion to Rohmer's passion-play version.

FWIW, neither of these sequences, for me, quite works as a meditation on the passion, though they certainly contribute to the overall effect of their respective films. (Tarkovsky's passion play in Andrei Rublev certainly does work as a meditation on the passion.)

I would include the 1905 Life and Passion among the Jesus films that have been formative to my imagination. I have never actually seen a stage play in which gods, demons or others appear or disappear ex machina from or to the heavens or the underworld, and the image of Jesus rising not from a resting place in the sepulchre, but literally rising from sheol, coming up out of the ground via a hidden elevator, is perhaps the most defining image of the resurrection in my mind. (The resurrection appearances in The Miracle Maker are the best, but I know of no depiction of the resurrection itself to compete with the Life and Passion, as bluntly metaphorical and pictoral as it is.) And the ascension is even better, completing the three-tiered picture of the universe with the Son seated at the right hand of the Father in the glory of the Holy Spirit, forever and ever, amen.

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In terms of specifically cinematic interest, I think very few Jesus films could hope to hold a candle to Pasolini's film.

Yeah, and there just isn't anything else to compare it to. It is a great Pasolini, but it is also utterly unique as a film about Jesus. I am currently working on a paper that talks about the differences between "Jesus films" and "films that have to do with Jesus," toying with the idea of putting Pasolini's film in the latter category. I completely agree, Doug, that the three films you have mentioned are probably among the most notable in terms of significantly contributing towards representing Jesus in film. But if that is the standard by which "Jesus films" or "films that have to do with Jesus" are measured, then La vie de Jesus and Last Days have been as ever bit as helpful as those three, even if by way of negation at times. Such is the curious problem with "Jesus films," heathens seem to understand how to do them pretty well.

Edited by MLeary

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SDG wrote: In terms of specifically cinematic interest, I think very few Jesus films could hope to hold a candle to Pasolini's film.

MLeary wrote: Yeah, and there just isn't anything else to compare it to.

Hey, I love the Pasolini and the Rossellini, but I think that The Greatest Story Ever Told is incredible cinema. I'm not sure why people dislike it and mock it so vehemently. Maybe they haven't seen it. It's like a Tarkovsky film with movie stars, and dense with ideas and beautiful, rigorous mise-en-scene.

And on the strength of the "score" alone, King of Kings is in the pantheon of cinematic art. And Nick Ray still had some juice on that one, too.

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Such is the curious problem with "Jesus films," heathens seem to understand how to do them pretty well.
And not just Jesus films. Rossellini (The Flowers of St. Francis), Robert Bolt (A Man for All Seasons), Mark Twain (Joan of Arc), Franz Werfel (The Song of Bernadette), Marc Rothemund (Sophie Scholl), and Volker Schlondorff (The Ninth Day) weren't/aren't all "heathens" (e.g., Werfel was Jewish), but they certainly didn't share the beliefs of the figures whose stories they told. Yet they told them so well. There is a mystery there that I want to understand better.

Having said that, I would also add The Passion of the Christ as a film that has contributed substantially not only to my religious imagination but many others' as well, in several respects: its liberating reliance on ancient languages; its deeply Marian spirituality; its disturbing satanic imagery; its wonderful portrayal of Simon of Cyrene; and more.

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Hey, I love the Pasolini and the Rossellini, but I think that The Greatest Story Ever Told is incredible cinema. I'm not sure why people dislike it and mock it so vehemently. Maybe they haven't seen it. It's like a Tarkovsky film with movie stars, and dense with ideas and beautiful, rigorous mise-en-scene.

Time to revisit that one!

...but they certainly didn't share the beliefs of the figures whose stories they told. Yet they told them so well. There is a mystery there that I want to understand better.

Indeed, this study has been edifying from a variety of directions. I will actually be giving that paper somewhat in your area in the November. D.C., that is.

Having said that, I would also add The Passion of the Christ as a film that has contributed substantially not only to my religious imagination but many others' as well, in several respects: its liberating reliance on ancient languages; its deeply Marian spirituality; its disturbing satanic imagery; its wonderful portrayal of Simon of Cyrene; and more.

I also esteem this film highly, for reasons I would articulate differently (but for all intents and purposes are probably the same). It was certainly a necessary film to make, as it embodies an important way of accessing Jesus. People can say what they want about Gibson, but he stumbles across an "otherness" in moments of that film that are stunning to say the least. That film comes closest for me in rehearsing the way I read the Gospels. I don't think that this is something every Jesus film should seek to accomplish, but it was a pleasant surprise.

Edited by MLeary

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Hey, I love the Pasolini and the Rossellini, but I think that The Greatest Story Ever Told is incredible cinema. I'm not sure why people dislike it and mock it so vehemently.
Count me among the detractors. With the exception of the raising of Lazarus, with its over-the-top use of the Hallelujah chorus, I find TGSET a lead-footed wooden work that presents us with a sub-human Jesus seemingly dead long before any nails touched His flesh.
For sheer camp value, it's hard to beat the sight of Chuck Heston's John the Baptist performing forcible ablutions on the soldiers Herod has sent to arrest him, ducking them repeatedly in the Jordan while bellowing "Repent!" This John will baptize you whether you want it or not!

And I love the (probably apocryphal) story about Stevens trying to get John Wayne as Longinus to say his big line "with awe," prompting The Duke to intone, "Awww, truly this was the Son of God."

Having said that, I concur with Alan.

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Count me among the detractors. With the exception of the raising of Lazarus, with its over-the-top use of the Hallelujah chorus, I find TGSET a lead-footed wooden work that presents us with a sub-human Jesus seemingly dead long before any nails touched His flesh.

Good line, Alan.

There's basically three schools of criticism on this movie -- I'm putting you down in 1:

1) The "Jesus wasn't Swedish" school.

2) The "Isn't John Wayne funny as the Centurion?" School

3) The "it's long and underexciting" school.

Call me a heretic, but to me, there's more to art than audience identification.

But maybe this is a good subject for an A&F poll....

SDG wrote: And I love the (probably apocryphal) story about Stevens trying to get John Wayne as Longinus to say his big line "with awe," prompting The Duke to intone, "Awww, truly this was the Son of God."

Having said that, I concur with Alan.

Too late, Steven, you're already in 2.

Edited by goneganesh

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Call me a heretic, but to me, there's more to art than audience identification.
Ha! Of course, you could create a taxonomy of opinions on anything from Citizen Kane to Plan 9 from Outer Space. It doesn't say anything against those opinions.

SDG wrote: And I love the (probably apocryphal) story about Stevens trying to get John Wayne as Longinus to say his big line "with awe," prompting The Duke to intone, "Awww, truly this was the Son of God."

Having said that, I concur with Alan.

Too late, Steven, you're already in 2.
Not at all! I said I loved the story, which I acknowledged as apocryphal. I didn't say one word about the actual casting or the scene itself.

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Not at all! I said I loved the story, which I acknowledged as apocryphal. I didn't say one word about the actual casting or the scene itself.

You said "probably" apocryphal...and that fatal "probably" is why I put you in in 2. But my taxonomy is a taxonomy of freedom, so you can apply in a private IM to be moved to either alternate hatred position. The paperwork takes a few weeks to process, though.

Edited by goneganesh

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The short that should be included on DVDs of this film is Pasolini's marvelous La Ricotta (1963).

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The short that should be included on DVDs of this film is Pasolini's marvelous La Ricotta (1963).

Thanks for getting me back on topic, Doug. Where'd you see this? And what's it like?

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(still off-topic)

Gone, here is my iron-clad defense against being put in category 2, although also my disqualification against having a final opinion of the film: I've never gotten to the end. I've never seen the crucifixion scene or Wayne's Longinus, although after Heston's John the Baptist I can only think it would be anticlimactic.

Herodian soldier: "I have orders to bring you to Herod."

John the Baptist (in best "You can have my gun when you pry it from my cold, dead fingers" voice): "I have orders to bring you to God."

Bwaa-haa-ha-ha!

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The short that should be included on DVDs of this film is Pasolini's marvelous La Ricotta (1963).

Is that his section from RoGoPag that incurred the ire of the Catholic Church a few years before Gospel? With the dancing and the music at the beginning? If so, you are right.

The short that should be included on DVDs of this film is Pasolini's marvelous La Ricotta (1963).

Is that his section from RoGoPag that incurred the ire of the Catholic Church a few years before Gospel? With the dancing and the music at the beginning? If so, you are right.

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IPB Image

Apparently, it's on the Criterion Mamma Roma DVD, but I've got it on VHS if you're interested. It's Pasolini's alternatingly hilarious and horrifying contribution to RoGoPaG, a 1963 omnibus film by Rossellini, Godard, Pasolini, and Ugo Gregoretti. It tells the story of an Italian film crew trying to make a Jesus film; the egotistical director is played by Orson Welles. The film follows the antics of an extra who plays the thief crucified along with Jesus, who cannot find the time or resources to eat; in haste, he eventually ingests a large amount of ricotta and is jeered by the rest of the crew, and actually dies while filming, lashed to the cross.

It's a wry commentary on the distance between a production/society about Jesus and the values of Jesus--particularly in relation to the poor--but it was predictably attacked by the religious establishment and Pasolini was given a four-month prison sentence that he subsequently appealed. In many ways, The Gospel According to St. Matthew was a response to those charges and a recapitulation of the themes of La Ricotta.

From the Criterion liner notes: "As Enzo Siciliano puts it in his biography of Pasolini, 'this movie set is nothing but the temple overrun by the moneychangers.' La ricotta uses all the technical and moral ironies of filmmaking, the disjunction between 'reality' and artifice, to paint a world of implacable cruelty ruled by money and cynically contrived spectacle."

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Doug C wrote:

: The short that should be included on DVDs of this film is Pasolini's marvelous La Ricotta (1963).

At least that one's already available on Criterion's Mamma Roma (1962) DVD. What I would really like to see on DVD is Pasolini's documentary Seeking Locations in Palestine for The Gospel According to St. Matthew (1964).

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Wow! What an amazing day this is. I agree almost entirely with Stephen here. (The " "almost" is that I haven't seen the Gospel According to John, but the main reason I've avoided it is I hate the Living Bible.)

As to The Last Temptation I usually think of it as a Christ movie disguised as a Jesus movie.

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goneganesh wrote:

: But maybe this is a good subject for an A&F poll....

Well, we do have a poll thread on 'Who is your Favourite Film Jesus', where I was one of apparently only two people to vote for Max von Sydow's performance in The Greatest Story Ever Told.

I included a still from this film in my submission to the 'What're your favorite VISUAL movie moments?' thread.

And I posted some comments on this film -- which I liked more than I expected, the last time I saw it -- in the 'jesus point-of-view shots' thread.

FWIW, I like your Tarkovsky-with-Hollywood-stars description. :)

Edited by Peter T Chattaway

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Well...

How very timely!

(ANSA) - Rome, August 22 - A previously unseen interview with Pier Paolo Pasolini shot just months before his murder has been incorporated into a new documentary about the cult director and intellectual to be screened at the Venice Film Festival .

The documentary by Italian filmmaker Giuseppe Bertolucci merges the interview with photos taken in June 1975 on the set of Pasolini's last film, the highly controversial Salo' o le 120 Giornate di Sodoma (Salo' or the 120 Days of Sodom) .

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