Peter T Chattaway

The Gospel According to St. Matthew (1964)

140 posts in this topic

Mau wrote:
: . . . Pasolini's way of manifesting a maxist/revolutionary Jesus which makes this (correct me if Im wrong) not an actual "Jesus life film". . . . this definitely doesn't seem to be a Jesus life story, at least not the traditionally depiction of the life of Jesus held up for almost 2000 years now.

That's a little oversimplified. Pasolini was very clear in interviews that the *look* of his film influenced by religious art, that he was making a movie about Jesus *and the tradition that followed Jesus* -- and certainly the soundtrack reflects a wide range of later traditions, from Bach compositions to Negro spirituals. This film is very conscious of the traditional depictions of Jesus' life -- it simply departs from them by emphasizing the earthiness of the Jesus movement (via quasi-neo-realist filmmaking techniques), and also by focusing on the content of a single gospel rather than trying to create a harmonized gospel that isn't found within the New Testament itself.

Which is not to say that this film is a strict word-for-word translation of Matthew's gospel; it does leave out a bunch of stuff (as it would have to, to keep its running time down to two hours). Indeed, as W. Barnes Tatum has observed, Pasolini actually *de-politicizes* Matthew's gospel at the crucial moment of Jesus' trial and execution -- which undermines the suggestion that Pasolini was going out of his way to make a Marxist/revolutionary Jesus movie.

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13 hours ago, Peter T Chattaway said:

Pasolini was very clear in interviews that the *look* of his film influenced by religious art, that he was making a movie about Jesus *and the tradition that followed Jesus*... This film is very conscious of the traditional depictions of Jesus' life...

I haven't known of a christian tradition that assume there was meat in the Last Supper when it is well known that Christ's Flesh and Blood was substituting the traditional Passover Lamb sacrificed by the Jews each year during the same feast. Neither have I seen a few dozens of people for the fish and loaves miracle instead of the 4 or 5 thousand people that should have been there. That doesn't seem to be traditional nor biblical for me, just to mention some examples. 

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Mau wrote:
: I haven't known of a christian tradition that assume there was meat in the Last Supper when it is well known that Christ's Flesh and Blood was substituting the traditional Passover Lamb sacrificed by the Jews each year during the same feast.

I am not aware of this thing that you say is "well-known". I do know that John's gospel disagrees with the other gospels as to whether the Last Supper was a Passover meal of any sort. But Matthew's gospel -- which is the basis for this film -- does seem to indicate that it was. And this scholar argues that it is very clear in the original Greek (especially in Luke's gospel) that Jesus and his disciples were eating lamb at that supper. (Note also how the 15th-century icon depicted at that scholar's blog post shows a lamb on the table at the Last Supper.)

: Neither have I seen a few dozens of people for the fish and loaves miracle instead of the 4 or 5 thousand people that should have been there.

I'm not going to chastise a low-budget filmmaker for not being able to afford a cast of thousands. :)

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4 hours ago, Peter T Chattaway said:

I am not aware of this thing that you say is "well-known". I do know that John's gospel disagrees with the other gospels as to whether the Last Supper was a Passover meal of any sort. 

That's because you probably are not a christian. It's not a "thing", it's actually one of the best Sacred Mysteries ever. John's Gospel doesn't "disagree" the other Gospels in that, it just doesn't mention much about it. 

5 hours ago, Peter T Chattaway said:

And this scholar argues that it is very clear in the original Greek (especially in Luke's gospel) that Jesus and his disciples were eating lamb at that supper. (Note also how the 15th-century icon depicted at that scholar's blog post shows a lamb on the table at the Last Supper.)

It's not a convincing argument: the "Paschae" this scholar is talking about is the one Jesus was preparing which was going to make a difference this time... Jesus had the authority and necessity for doing it differently. Is that really a lamb? It could be symbolic and I could show you a lot more icons without a lamb as well.

5 hours ago, Peter T Chattaway said:

I'm not going to chastise a low-budget filmmaker for not being able to afford a cast of thousands. :)

I do chastise him :), not only because of that but also for the other mistakes I have already mentioned since my first post in this thread. It's not a matter of charity towards the filmmaker, is that the movie shouldn't be on the 2011 top 100 list, especially within the first 10 films because it doesn't meet the Gospel Standards and can confuse others with these small but often imperfections.

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Posted (edited)

Well, that escalated quickly. Mau, ad hominem statements with zero merit, like, "That's because you probably are not a christian [sic]" are simply uncharitable. Moderators, take note.

Focusing on the film, I revisited it over the past two days, having not seen it for a few years. It's still one of my favorite cinematic depictions of Christ, mostly for the angry, liberation theology tone when Jesus is teaching. There's a sparseness and intimacy to the entire film (perhaps due to its budget constraints) which is a welcomed contrast to the elaborate Bible spectacles (I'm thinking of DeMille and Scorsese both). I love some of the directorial choices, especially choosing to view the trial scenes from the perspective of the disciples within the crowd, the camera hovering at a distance creating a fuller sense of anticipation and tension, as well putting the audience within the frantic nature of the whole procedure. A highly-political Jesus who pronounces woe upon the wealthy elite and unjust religious leadership, turning over tables in the temple, then embracing the poor and marginalized? It's a timely Jesus film to watch this Easter 2017 weekend.

Edited by Joel Mayward

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Mau wrote:
: That's because you probably are not a christian.

I guess my priest isn't a Christian then either -- he had never heard of this tradition either when I asked him about it a few hours ago.

: . . . the movie shouldn't be on the 2011 top 100 list, especially within the first 10 films because it doesn't meet the Gospel Standards and can confuse others with these small but often imperfections.

You seem to think that the 100 movies that represent this community and its interests are somehow supposed to be free of imperfections. I'd say you don't know us very well.

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14 hours ago, Peter T Chattaway said:

I am not aware of this thing that you say is "well-known". I do know that John's gospel disagrees with the other gospels ...

Calling my Faith a "thing" and pretending there is some type of contradiction about it is non charitable for me.  but I guess your 33000 posts weighs way more than mine. That's fine, I'll stop here.

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Posted (edited)

1 hour ago, Mau said:

Calling my Faith a "thing" and pretending there is some type of contradiction about it is non charitable for me.  but I guess your 33000 posts weighs way more than mine. That's fine, I'll stop here.

At the risk of speaking for Peter, it seemed quite clear to me that "thing" referred to the idea there was no meat at the Last Supper, not your faith. And the Gospels do contradict one another at various points. That doesn't mean Christianity is a contradiction; it means the Gospels were written down by human beings who recalled things differently.

 

As to the film itself, deviations from minute details of the Gospel are valid artistic licenses. They don't make it blasphemous; it would need to profane Jesus and somehow suggest he wasn't the Son of God to be that.

Edited by Evan C

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Posted (edited)

On 4/16/2017 at 6:02 AM, Mau said:

Calling my Faith a "thing" and pretending there is some type of contradiction about it is non charitable for me.  but I guess your 33000 posts weighs way more than mine. That's fine, I'll stop here.

So, Mau, are you saying that it is essential to your faith that there was no lamb at the Last Supper? Or that there aren’t any discrepancies at all amongst the 4 gospel accounts (what might be called inerrancy)? And by "faith," do you mean something that you're not willing to have a reasonable or critical discussion about? I don't think that's a separation that many others here are working from, since that's mostly the kind of conversation that I observe the members of this board having, via a shared love of film, which I think is a very good thing and in the service of faith.

I guess I’d always assumed that there was lamb at the Last Supper and that that makes even more resonant the fact that Jesus is the “true Paschal lamb” and “our Passover sacrificed for us” as the Eucharistic prayer in my church says. I don’t see why they might be considered mutually exclusive.

Just observing, Mau, it seems to me that these comments in response to yours were made with great charity. And I really don’t think this particular discussion has anything to do with number of posts.

Edited by Rob Z

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On 4/14/2017 at 2:17 PM, Peter T Chattaway said:

Mau wrote:
: . . . Pasolini's way of manifesting a maxist/revolutionary Jesus which makes this (correct me if Im wrong) not an actual "Jesus life film". . . . this definitely doesn't seem to be a Jesus life story, at least not the traditionally depiction of the life of Jesus held up for almost 2000 years now.

That's a little oversimplified. Pasolini was very clear in interviews that the *look* of his film influenced by religious art, that he was making a movie about Jesus *and the tradition that followed Jesus* -- and certainly the soundtrack reflects a wide range of later traditions, from Bach compositions to Negro spirituals. This film is very conscious of the traditional depictions of Jesus' life -- it simply departs from them by emphasizing the earthiness of the Jesus movement (via quasi-neo-realist filmmaking techniques), and also by focusing on the content of a single gospel rather than trying to create a harmonized gospel that isn't found within the New Testament itself.

Which is not to say that this film is a strict word-for-word translation of Matthew's gospel; it does leave out a bunch of stuff (as it would have to, to keep its running time down to two hours). Indeed, as W. Barnes Tatum has observed, Pasolini actually *de-politicizes* Matthew's gospel at the crucial moment of Jesus' trial and execution -- which undermines the suggestion that Pasolini was going out of his way to make a Marxist/revolutionary Jesus movie.

This is a super helpful gloss on the artistry of the film. I guess that I find the neorealism to really foreground Christ’s divinity with those neorealist conventions aren’t followed, even as Jesus himself here is also a very earthy Messiah. The fact that Jesus is well-shaven gives him an iconic quality in the film. I prefer this relatively bloodless crucifixion to the other end of the crucifixion spectrum (the brutality of Gibson’s Passion, for instance), though an approach that has both somehow would be even better. It emphasizes that Jesus goes willingly to be the atoning sacrifice and that he is glorified on the cross. This was really highlighted to me in the contrast of Jesus to the other crucified and to the reactions of his followers at the cross but especially in the fact that what we hear before and during the crucifixion is primarily non-diegetic music.

I also think it’s important to acknowledge that this is an interpretation of a book that is itself an interpretation of the life of Jesus. And on that account, I think it’s highly faithful to the gospel within the parameters of the film, including in its artistic license.

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On 4/15/2017 at 10:28 PM, Joel Mayward said:

Focusing on the film, I revisited it over the past two days, having not seen it for a few years. It's still one of my favorite cinematic depictions of Christ, mostly for the angry, liberation theology tone when Jesus is teaching. There's a sparseness and intimacy to the entire film (perhaps due to its budget constraints) which is a welcomed contrast to the elaborate Bible spectacles (I'm thinking of DeMille and Scorsese both). I love some of the directorial choices, especially choosing to view the trial scenes from the perspective of the disciples within the crowd, the camera hovering at a distance creating a fuller sense of anticipation and tension, as well putting the audience within the frantic nature of the whole procedure. A highly-political Jesus who pronounces woe upon the wealthy elite and unjust religious leadership, turning over tables in the temple, then embracing the poor and marginalized? It's a timely Jesus film to watch this Easter 2017 weekend.

I also revisited the last hour or so (triumphal entry to the end) for the past weekend, in part because it’s being discussed here. But mainly because it was Easter weekend.

I loved the juxtaposition of fiery Jesus calling out the authorities hypocrisy and misuse of the temple with his soft smiles toward the children and poor who come to him in the same scene. Timely indeed!

I tend to find that most Jesus films spend more time on the Judas subplot than its significance merits. This one is no exception, but I thought that Pasolini did Judas justice in his portrayal of his character—much more so than films that invent a backstory or a character who it then attempts to over-psychologize.

The Last Supper scene was positively Eucharistic! Wow, I didn't remember that, and I loved it. I do prefer interpretations of this episode in other films that spend longer on the Last Supper though, such as in Rossellini’s The Messiah.

I really appreciated the pacing toward the end as well as the perspective—I felt a lot of pathos seeing John’s expression at the condemnation and Mary’s at the cross. Even Judas cowering in remorse on the ground as Blind Willie Johnson’s “Dark was the Night, Cold was the Ground” played (a song the next line to which is “where they laid my Lord”).

I love the music in this film so much. The Bach during the crucifixion and Missa Luba during the resurrection are just so perfect. Their use here enriches them for me as primary musical works (though I originally only sought out the Missa Luba because it’s in this film). The resurrection and ascension sequences feel rushed, intentionally so, but rushed nonetheless).

I found myself more cognizant of the distance I felt from the action of the film than before. Where before I found the defamiliarization helpful for paying attention to the content of the story, this time I felt like I sometimes feel when reading the text of the gospels—a distancing from the historical events that the realistic conventions of film can help make more immediate. Like it’s harder to imagine what’s not actually shown/told and use that do discern meaning. (Hard to describe this reaction…)

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On 4/15/2017 at 11:28 PM, Joel Mayward said:

Well, that escalated quickly. Mau, ad hominem statements with zero merit, like, "That's because you probably are not a christian [sic]" are simply uncharitable. Moderators, take note.

Really, Is stating that an unknown individual religion could be other than Christianity uncharitable? I just felt uncomfortable being pointed out like this when I was having this normal discussion with mr. Chattaway. That's why I pointed out another tense part of the conversation we had which doesn't mean I was offended by that.

This is so far the only movie from the ones I've seen from the list that I definitely don't agree with. I mean, being a Jesus film doesn't mean we need so hard to find this piece of low budget overrated film pleasant to the eye. I just rather listen to the Good News in my church or reading It myself from the Bible. I don't think anybody needs it to increase their devotion and/or save their souls. I do accept the word "blasphemous" was maybe exaggerated when I used it but I'll stick to the fact that this is not taking Jesus seriously. It's become like a hair in my throat when I see it ranked #7. That's why this discussion keeps going on and at this point I do believe it won't take us anywhere. I'm opened to discuss any other production but this one. Sorry but thanks for everything

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Mau wrote:
: Calling my Faith a "thing" and pretending there is some type of contradiction about it is non charitable for me. . . .

This, from the person who said I am probably not a Christian because I had never heard of a tradition that he claimed was "well-known". Who is speaking non-charitably about whose faith here?

Evan C wrote:
: At the risk of speaking for Peter, it seemed quite clear to me that "thing" referred to the idea there was no meat at the Last Supper, not your faith.

That is correct.

: As to the film itself, deviations from minute details of the Gospel are valid artistic licenses. They don't make it blasphemous; it would need to profane Jesus and somehow suggest he wasn't the Son of God to be that.

I've always loved the fact that the film takes all of its dialogue from Matthew's gospel, *except* for a few extra lines from Isaiah, which Pasolini felt he could get away with because Matthew's gospel quotes Isaiah so often anyway. That's the kind of cinematic deviation that actually *underscores* what the gospel is about!

Rob Z wrote:
: The resurrection and ascension sequences feel rushed, intentionally so, but rushed nonetheless).

Well, there's no ascension in Matthew's gospel, nor is there in this film. (Matthew ends with Jesus appearing to the disciples on a mountain in Galilee. Luke's gospel ends with Jesus ascending from a hill outside Jerusalem. These two passages are *not* describing the same event, though they are often conflated in films and such.)

But Matthew's account of the resurrection is pretty rushed to begin with, so it's probably inevitable that a film that sticks to Matthew's account would feel rushed, too. (Though it bears mentioning that Pasolini doesn't *entirely* stick to Matthew's gospel, since he places Jesus' mother Mary at the crucifixion, which only John's gospel does, and he also places her at the empty tomb, which *none* of the gospels do.)

(Oh, and does Pasolini show Peter cutting off the ear of the high priest's servant? I can't remember, but if he does, then *that* is also arguably taken from John's gospel. Yes, the synoptics also describe one of Jesus' followers cutting off the servant's ear, but it is only John's gospel that identifies the follower in question as Peter. Pasolini could have shown James or John doing it and still have been making a faithful adaptation of Matthew's gospel, per se.)

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16 hours ago, Peter T Chattaway said:

Rob Z wrote:
: The resurrection and ascension sequences feel rushed, intentionally so, but rushed nonetheless).

Well, there's no ascension in Matthew's gospel, nor is there in this film. (Matthew ends with Jesus appearing to the disciples on a mountain in Galilee. Luke's gospel ends with Jesus ascending from a hill outside Jerusalem. These two passages are *not* describing the same event, though they are often conflated in films and such.)

I stand corrected regarding the conflation of Matthew and Luke when I mentioned the ascension.

16 hours ago, Peter T Chattaway said:

But Matthew's account of the resurrection is pretty rushed to begin with, so it's probably inevitable that a film that sticks to Matthew's account would feel rushed, too. (Though it bears mentioning that Pasolini doesn't *entirely* stick to Matthew's gospel, since he places Jesus' mother Mary at the crucifixion, which only John's gospel does, and he also places her at the empty tomb, which *none* of the gospels do.)

Yes, it's interesting how some Jesus films enhance Mary's role beyond the gospel accounts. But from the beginning, Christian tradition has also augmented Mary's role beyond the gospel accounts, including before the gospel accounts themselves became canonical, and sometimes in ways that seem (to me) to be at odds with the gospel accounts. But I'd imagine that all that tradition influenced Pasolini's depiction of Mary. None of the gospels say she wasn't there, right?

If I remember, in Rossellini's The Messiah, in which Mary also plays a larger role, the resurrection is also very rushed. I think we see some people going to the tomb, led by Mary Jesus' mother, they hear the report of the empty tomb from the women, then Mary runs to the empty tomb, she falls to her knees and raises her hands and eyes heavenward...and that's the end. We never see the resurrected Jesus, which is in line with the film's tell-don't-show approach to miracles, but still a little jarring to have the resurrection itself affirmed without showing Jesus. Rossellini's Mary is played by the same actress throughout the film, so she looks like she could be the adult Jesus' teenage daughter! On the other hand, Pasolini's older Mary (portrayed by his own mother!!!) looks like she could be Jesus' grandmother.

There are so many litmus tests in Jesus films--how are miracles portrayed, how is violence portrayed, how are Jews portrayed--and I suppose the portrayal of Mary is another variable that demands interpretation.

16 hours ago, Peter T Chattaway said:

(Oh, and does Pasolini show Peter cutting off the ear of the high priest's servant? I can't remember, but if he does, then *that* is also arguably taken from John's gospel. Yes, the synoptics also describe one of Jesus' followers cutting off the servant's ear, but it is only John's gospel that identifies the follower in question as Peter. Pasolini could have shown James or John doing it and still have been making a faithful adaptation of Matthew's gospel, per se.)

Actually, a disciple--I can't recall which--is about to strike with the sword but then Jesus says "Put away the sword..." which in the gospel text he says after the ear is cut. But in the film, the disciple listens and doesn't strike.

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Posted (edited)

Rob Z wrote:
: None of the gospels say she wasn't there, right?

Right. It's kind of puzzling, actually. John's gospel says she was present at the Crucifixion. Luke-Acts pretty much says that she was present for the Ascension (or, at the very least, that she was present in the Jerusalem church during the ten-day window between the Ascension and Pentecost). But *none* of the gospels place her at the Resurrection, which took place *between* the Crucifixion and the Ascension and would have been an opportune time for Jesus to appear to her.

The absence of any reference to Jesus' *mother* at the Resurrection becomes even more puzzling when you consider that Cleopas, one of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, was quite possibly Jesus' *uncle*. So Jesus appeared to at least *one* of his relatives in the gospels (and according to Paul, Jesus appeared to his brother James as well; presumably that's why the brothers of Jesus are also present in the Jerusalem church between the Ascension and Pentecost). But not his mother!

Anyway. Curious stuff, this.

: If I remember, in Rossellini's The Messiah, in which Mary also plays a larger role, the resurrection is also very rushed. I think we see some people going to the tomb, led by Mary Jesus' mother, they hear the report of the empty tomb from the women, then Mary runs to the empty tomb, she falls to her knees and raises her hands and eyes heavenward...and that's the end. We never see the resurrected Jesus, which is in line with the film's tell-don't-show approach to miracles, but still a little jarring to have the resurrection itself affirmed without showing Jesus.

Yes. The National Geographic Channel movie Killing Jesus did something similar: Mary and a few other people find the tomb empty, and then Peter has a second really large catch of fish, and everyone just kind of basks in the knowledge that Jesus is somehow still with them...

: Rossellini's Mary is played by the same actress throughout the film, so she looks like she could be the adult Jesus' teenage daughter!

Yes, there are a few other films that do something similar, like Cecil B. DeMille's The King of Kings, where Jesus is played by an actor in his 50s while Mary (who appears at the Resurrection here, too!) is played by an actress in her 20s. This apparently has something to do with Catholic traditions regarding Mary's incorruptibility. (Some Catholic Facebook peeps were talking just the other day about the reasoning that went into Michelangelo basing the Mary of his Pieta on a younger woman, rather than an older woman.)

: Actually, a disciple--I can't recall which--is about to strike with the sword but then Jesus says "Put away the sword..." which in the gospel text he says after the ear is cut. But in the film, the disciple listens and doesn't strike.

That's a striking omission (the fact that the film shows a disciple drawing his sword but omits the moment of violence itself). I wonder to what degree that might have been influenced by Pasolini's desire to avoid the expectation that Jesus would heal the servant's ear afterwards (a miracle that appears only in Luke's gospel, not in Matthew's).

Edited by Peter T Chattaway

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