(1988)4Lucia BozzolaCanceled in 1983, finally made in 1987, and embroiled in controversy, Martin Scorsese's adaptation of Nikos Kazantzakis's The Last Temptation of Christ (1988) is the ultimate labor of love and a singularly thought-provoking take on the life of Jesus. Though fundamentalists loudly protested a brief scene featuring Willem Dafoe's Christ procreating with Barbara Hershey's Mary Magdalene, the real "offense" was portraying Jesus as fully human as well as fully divine, and thus subject to doubts, fears, and temptation via a deceptively angelic girl offering a vision of normal life. Scorsese and screenwriter Paul Schrader's aim to think through the meaning of Christ's dual nature and the Passion, however, becomes a sincere affirmation of faith through its very humanism and, yes, humor. Shot on a minimal budget in Morocco, Scorsese's rough, stripped-down style avoids Hollywood biblical gloss and turns Jesus and his Apostles into accessible, rough-accented human beings, paradoxically making Jesus' acceptance of his fate all the more effective (though Harvey Keitel's Brooklynite Judas provoked some derision). Released amid vociferous criticism (from fundamentalist Christians who refused to actually see it), The Last Temptation of Christ earned good notices and Scorsese an Oscar nomination for Best Director. Certain video chains, however, won't stock it.
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