OCTOBER 5, 2010

Raised with a moderate Catholic upbringing, the words of the Bible and its stories are familiar to me. Upon viewing “The Last Temptation of Christ,” I expected controversy and blatant backhanded views. Not that Martin Scorsese does not warrant more credibility, but from hearsay, “The Last Temptation” was known for testing people’s faith and offering radical ideas. Following my viewing, I fail to see a significant controversy, and even though the film starts off by warning of its fictitious nature, the entire film still solidifies the ultimate sacrifice that Jesus made by dying on the cross.

As a realist, I enjoyed “The Last Temptation” because it makes Jesus look human yet still divine. This version of Jesus is somehow more accessible to accept than Jesus, an all-holy miracle worker who did no wrong and died for us without question. With no attempt to be sacrilegious, “The Last Temptation” makes you emote the same agony that Christ endured. Scorsese allows the viewer to become enlightened right alongside his image of Christ. You recognize the various versions of the Bible stories and the twists on each. Christ may not be De Niro’s Johnny Boy, and Jerusalem may not be the dirty streets of New York, yet Scorsese’s girt and dauntlessness turn a familiar story into a brand new icon.

In no way do I look upon “The Last Temptation of Christ” as factual, but it is a fresh interpretation of the life of Jesus. Unique and neoteric, the film does lack in certain areas, precisely the flow of the film. At specific points, the chaotic nature of the story confuses the unsuspecting viewers, particularly in the desert scenes where Jesus waits by himself and the ending where Satan offers Christ the life of a regular human, the very last temptation offered to Christ. These segments of the film are handled in a highly trippy way and lose the viewer for that moment, leaving them to catch back on as the film progresses slowly.

Willem Dafoe delivers a performance that should precede him, but with few fans diehard enough to travel back to the late 80s for a Dafoe appearance, this performance gets lost to time. Harvey Keitel continues his Martin Scorsese collaboration (from “Mean Streets” to “Taxi Driver”) to give an empathetic guise to the Biblical character of Judas. His new fictitious stature gives off a completely new radiance and an almost “misunderstood” demeanor to the entire embodiment of Judas. Keitel handles the part gracefully and delivers one of his career-best performances, even outshining Dafoe at times.

Surrounded by controversy, “The Last Temptation of Christ” offers an entertaining fictitious spin on the New Testament. Martin Scorsese handles the film masterfully, producing a film worthy of the annals of “The Passion of the Christ.” Those that are devout Christians will probably steer clear. Still, for those open to another take on the story of Jesus Christ, “The Last Temptation” is exactly that, but with dimension, heart, and a cameo from the young and baby-faced David Bowie as Pontius Pilate.

August 12, 1988

Martin Scorsese

Paul Schrader

“The Last Temptation of Christ”
by Nikos Kazantzakis

Universal Pictures


164 minutes

Michael Ballhaus

Peter Gabriel

Thelma Schoonmaker

Willem Dafoe
Harvey Keitel
Barbara Hershey
Harry Dean Stanton
David Bowie
Roberts Blossom
Irvin Kershner

Barbara De Fina

$7 million

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