Denys Arcand's JESUS OF MONTREAL is a modern Passion Play that takes aim at organized religion and the superficial values of our media-saturated society, yet suggests salvation through technology. Thoughtful without being didactic, this is a strong, provocative film.
The story begins as Daniel (Bluteau) is hired to stage the annual Summer Passion Play in a park overlooking the skyline of Montreal. From the start, Daniel's production--which he is to direct, as well as to star in as Jesus--is not entirely conventional. His ensemble cast comprises fellow actor
friends forced to get along by dubbing porn movies and modeling for sleazy commercials. Mireille (Wilkening) is the Passion Play's (as well as the film's) Mary Magdalene. At first, she drifts aimlessly and almost amorally through life, but ultimately finds meaning in her devotion to Daniel and the
play. Daniel becomes fascinated with some of the more unorthodox theories that he encounters in his research of Jesus' life, including questions of Jesus' true parentage, and these details go into the play. When the play is finally staged, it emerges as an avant-garde performance piece, with
audiences ushered to the various installations representing the events in Jesus' life. The resulting drama doesn't adhere to standard biblical interpretations, but it truly moves and inspires the audience, and the revisionist Passion Play, its cast, and particularly Daniel become the toast of the
town, cooed over by critics and culture vultures. Soon, life begins to imitate art, as church officials decide to discontinue the play because of questions about its possibly blasphemous content.
Arcand's excellent screenplay invests his vision of this spiritual parable with scathing satire and social commentary. The superb cast includes Bluteau as Daniel, his quiet brooding erupting into indignant rage; Girard as Martin, the most down-to-earth character in the film; and Wilkening as
Mireille, who represents the modern-day lost soul's search for meaning. However, in drawing parallels between Daniel and Jesus, Arcand paints himself into a corner. The too-literal quality of these comparisons threatens to diminish the film's overall impact. The final resurrection sequence should
be extraordinarily powerful as well as clinically probing; instead it is more of the latter than the former. But despite these weaknesses, the handsomely produced JESUS OF MONTREAL remains fresh, intelligent, and fascinating.
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- Released: 1989
- Rating: R
- Review: Denys Arcand's JESUS OF MONTREAL is a modern Passion Play that takes aim at organized religion and the superficial values of our media-saturated society, yet suggests salvation through technology. Thoughtful without being didactic, this is a strong, provoc… (more)