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April 11, 2009


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scott neumyer

Absolutely! It was equally irritating when those same people did the same thing to DOGMA.

Steven Santos

Media talking heads mouthing off on subjects they are ignorant about has become the status quo since then. You can't fill the time on 24 hour cable news with informed opinions.

One could also argue that religious groups start these "controversies" more out of self-promotion and almost guaranteed media coverage at the latest public outrage than any particular principles. Those protesters at the Ziegfeld years back sure didn't hang around when the television cameras left.

If any of those protesters bothered to watch and understand the film, they would actually see a movie that comes to the same conclusions about the story of Jesus Christ that they do. It just takes a different path to that conclusion.

I don't subscribe to the notion that religion is above criticism or questioning. Only a person insecure in their beliefs wouldn't welcome a challenge to their way of thinking.

Account Deleted

"Religion is the human response to being alive and having to die." Can't remember who said those words but I agree woth them 100%.

Bruce Reid

And remember how on the DVD commentary track Scorsese, Dafoe, and Cocks lay out their thoughts on the controversy and the misunderstandings of the critics but only Schrader admitted the film was, of course, blasphemous (if not for the reasons claimed)?

Just a late little wrinkle in the narrative I always found amusing. Obviously not to contradict your central, dead-on, point.

Arthur S.

Schrader's approach was very academic and theological. What he meant was that in the perspective of the theological context of the original gospel's period, the idea of visually representing religious conceps and ideas was blasphemous as per the first commandment which forbade visually representing God in any idol or form. Of course that means that means that 90% of Visual Arts and Iconography in Europe is well...blasphemous. And under that technicality, Scorsese and co. are sinners. They'll be in good company in hell with Dante, Milton, Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Vermeer, Velasquez, Rubens et al.

The ruckus over THE LAST TEMPTATION was the first major victory for the Fundamentist faction, they raised a lot of money through their picketing and managed to use that to get funding. They probably made more money out of that film than the box-office grosses.

The Chevalier

Under the first commandment, Jesus is a fraud.


markj, there's a great deal of truth in your statement but I don't think it covers all the bases...mystical experience in particular seems, to me, the true root of all religion rather than pseudo-wishful speculations on an afterlife. Did you mean "being alive" and "having to die" as separate problems, or was the first merely a set-up for the second, which you consider the real cause of religious belief?

Anyway, happy Easter, all.


Hell, my old high school drama club was having problems putting on Jesus Christ Superstar. Thoughtful movies about a human Jesus, nay. Movies about Jesus getting the shit kicked out of him for 2 hours, yay.

As long as you stick to the text, you can film anything. Now I just want to see Judges 15:15-16: The movie!

"With an ass' jawbone
I have made asses of them
With an ass' jawbone
I have killed a thousand men."


Presume they mention this on the DVD, but the filmmakers also got threats during post-production. I had to walk past a picket line to get in, but they were pretty innocuous. A friend of mine had a less pleasant experience. He went to see it and was accosted by a woman on his way in. She said, "Why don't you take the money you are about to spend on this movie and give it to charity..."

and my friend was about to say to her, "Hey, that's a pretty reasonable line, congrats!"

But then she finished the thought:

"...instead of giving it to the blaspheming Jews?"

And that was the end of that.

Twenty years is a long time; I wonder if a re-release, or a similarly themed movie, would generate the same opposition?


OK, Glenn, I'm going to make what will probably be an unpopular admission, but here goes anyway: I've been defending Bogdanovich's "At Long Last Love" for more than 30 years now - and always against the condescending derision of people who haven't bothered to see it, who only heard about. I'm really annoyed by willfully ignorant assumptions about unseen films - and the idea of "hearsay" bothers me even more. Case in point: When "Gypsy" was revived last fall in New York, the Times' two drama critics went on about how wonderful Ethel Merman was in the original. It made me curious. It did some research. Turns out, one of the guys was only five when the show opened in 1959 and the other was born five years after it ... closed. Hearsay. Yeesh!

Glenn Kenny

@Joe—I saw "At Long Last Love" at Radio City Music Hall on a high-school class trip when I was 15 and recall being rather...befuddled by it. I have been dying to see it again recently, largely inspired by Jacques Rivette's praise for the film. Let's petition Fox!


Glenn- ALLL aficionados make up a small, but exclusive club. My friend Carrie Rickey likes it and I remember Ebert liking it way back when. In fact, if you go back and read Canby, you'll see it's somewhat favorably reviewed in the Times. It's bad reputation is an exaggeration that's grown and mutated over the years, exacerbated by the fact that Fox has not put it out on home entertainment in any format - not Beta, not VHS, not Laser and certainly not DVD. I personally think Criterion should tackle it and work with Bogdanovich on it, given that there are about four different cuts of the film in existence. (Peter kept working on it, and Fox kept cutting it.) I always loved that fact that Bogdanovich's cast of largely non-singers bravely sang all of their songs live (no dubbing or pre-recording) and that Albert Lantieri's choreography was loose and informal, sort of like the in-between numbers in the Astaire-Rogers RKO musicals.


@Joe -- an excellent point. The movie that taught me that hearsay could be utterly wrong was Heaven's Gate.

And I'd love to see At Long Last Love.



Great minds think alike: I always thought "Heaven's Gate" was terribly underrated and criminally maligned. At the time of its release, there were worse movies - much worse - but this one became a scapegoat and a symbol for Hollywood excess. I wish all overdone Hollywood spectacles were as good.

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