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Peter T Chattaway

Klaus Kinski: Jesus Christ Savior

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Surprised we don't already have a thread on this one; I know I've come across this film before.

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Jesus, and Jesus' Son

"Jesus is just alright with me" goes the refrain to the Doobie Brothers' 1970s sing-along, a cheerful ode to the only begotten son's Nixon Era vogue as a pothead's antihero. Hippie Jesus branded rolling papers and bonded groovy seekers at folk mass. And he apparently inspired that most demonic of actors, Klaus Kinski, to dedicate a one-man show to the Prince of Peace. The year was 1971, and in Peter Geyer's documentary Klaus Kinski: Jesus Christ Savior, the occasion was anything but a love-in. Kinski, then 45, was winding down a prolific year with 10 movies released, most of them spaghetti Westerns with names like Il venditore di morte and Giu la testa … hombre (whose tagline read: "A fistful of DEATH"), plus a few psycho thrillers on the sleazy order of La bestia uccide a sangue freddo. Maybe he wanted to reconnect with a passionate role. Instead, his Nov. 20 performance in a large hall in Berlin was a screaming rage-fest, a fourth-wall obliterating extension of the blood-letting that made Kinski the forbidding presence in scores of B movies. And, with his murderous scowl and lacerating tongue, an unexpected warm-up for his next star turn in Werner Herzog's Aguirre: The Wrath of God - the role that would legitimize the actor as a legendary force of nature.

The infamous meltdown is one of 26 films featured in Film Comment Selects, the off-season festival curated by the editors of the bi-monthly magazine published by the Film Society of Lincoln Center. Besides the requisite serious stuff, there's plenty of extreme and offbeat fare on the calendar, which offers up new films from Sion Sono (Cold Fish), Kim Ji-woon (I Saw the Devil), Alex Cox (Straight to Hell Returns) and a sneak preview of Machete spin-off Hobo with a Shotgun, with Rutger Hauer as a homeless vigilante.

Jesus was homeless, too. As Kinski reminds his audience in the opening moments of the film, he was accused of "anarchistic tendencies, conspiring against the authority of the state," with "scars on both hands and feet." The heckling begins immediately. "I want my 10 marks back!" "Asshole!" "You still got to earn your 10 marks, dude!" Kinski, eyes aflame, challenges a man to come onto the stage and repeat himself. The fellow does just that, calmly denouncing Kinski for his anything but Christ-like behavior. "You stupid pig!" the actor responds, and soon stalks off the stage.

Thus the masochistic pattern begins. "Heil Satan!" they cry, and still Kinski comes back, reciting lines for a 30-page script that's half scripture, half grandiose self-identification with Jesus as bohemian culture hero. The stunning accomplishment of the performance is how Kinski turns beatitudes into brickbats, evoking the wrath of God as he imagines the offending "riff-raff" to be the same rabble that persecuted the Biblical Jesus. Explosive, insane, chilling, idiotic, it is - as might have been said of some high-quality weed at the time - righteous shit. . . .

Steve Dollar, GreenCine Daily, February 16

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Would love to see this. You can catch a few minutes of the act at the beginning of Herzog's Klaus Kinski - My Best Fiend.

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Ah yes... and I have a link to the first scene of THAT film in a blog post on THIS film that I started in January 2008 but never finished. (Which explains why I thought we might have already had a thread on this.)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yBDEQe9CjOU

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