Monday, April 13, 2009

What Happened to Jesus this Easter?

It seems very odd, but as far as I can see no UK TV channel showed a film of the life of Jesus over Easter.

The following is a list from my Ancient History in the Movies. The best is by Pasolini.

The Life of Christ in Film

From the Manger to the Cross (1912) BW, Silent, Dir. Sidney Olcott. With Robert Henderson-Bland as Jesus.

The King of Kings (1927) BW, Silent , Dir. Cecil B. Demille, With H.B. Warner as Jesus.

King of Kings (1961) 168 mins, Dir. Nicholas Ray, With Jeffrey Hunter as Jesus.

Gospel According to Matthew (1964) 136 mins, Dir. Pier Paol Pasolini, With Enrique Irazoqui as Jesus. Pasolini, an agnostic or atheist Marxist, made what is often considered the purest Jesus movie by using only the Gospel of Matthew (he left out the "Saint" in theItalian title) and the services of local non-professional actors.

The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965) 268 mins, Dir, George Stevens, With Max von Sydow as Jesus. Very long, and full of "guest stars," including a famous appearance by John Wayne as the centurion at the cross. With von Sydow as a very in control Jesus, this film perhaps best presents the Jesus of the Gospel of John.

Jesus Christ Superstar (1973) 108 mins, Dir. Norman Jewison, With Ted Neely as Jesus. A filmed version of Andrew Lloyd-Weber and Tim Rice's musical. Although many enjoy the music, it was widely criticized for its stressed-out Jesus and failure to go beyond the crucifixion. In effect, this is the most "de-mythologizing" of all the Jesus movies.

Godspell (1973) 103 mins, Dir. David Greene, With Victor Garber as Jesus. In general this was a more "religious" musical adaptation of Jesus's life than Superstar

Jesus of Nazareth (TV)(1977) 371 mins, Dir. Franco Zeffirelli, With Robert Powell as Jesus. As a made-for-TV series, Zeffirelli was able to take longer with his story, and his is probably the most faithful to the gospel's telling of the story. Although no actor has satisfactorily played Jesus, Robert Powell looked the part (at least as established in Western art), and played it without the gaucheness (Hunter) or sheer weirdness (von Sydow, Neely) of others.

Jesus (1979), 117 mins , Dir. John Krish and Peter Sykes, With Brian Deacon as Jesus. Apart from the prologue, this movie is entirely based on the Gospel of Luke. It was produced by evangelical Protestants (Campus Crusade for Christ) who rave over it, and have made audio tracks in over 660 languages! The whole film is available to view online. Unfortunately the acting is lousy and Jesus presented as a tepid bourgeois, perhaps just as men in suits would like him to be. It is, however, interesting to compare this with Pasolini's version of the Gospel of Matthew.

The Last Temptation of Christ (1988) 168 mins. Dir. Martin Scorcese, With William Dafoe as Jesus.Based on Kazantzaki's novel, in which Jesus on the cross dreams of avoiding his death and marrying Mary Magdalene (i.e. one final temptation), this was stupidly criticized as blasphemous when it came out.

Jesus of Montreal (1989) in French. 120 mins. Dir. Denys Arcand. A group of actors puts on a play about Jesus, while their lives come to echo the play.

Jesus (TV)(1999) 2x 60 mins. Dir. Robert Young, with Jeremy Sisto as Jesus.

The Miracle Maker (TV)(2000) 90 mins
Dir. Derek W. Hayes and Stanislav Sokolov, With Ralph Fiennes as Jesus. A claymation version of the life of Jesus.

There is also a Gospel of John, and Mel Gibson's The Passion, which I have not listed.

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