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Marjoe (1972)

7.6
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Ratings: 7.6/10 from 991 users  
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Part documentary, part expose, this film follows one-time child evangelist Marjoe Gortner on the "church tent" Revivalist circuit, commenting on the showmanship of Evangelism and "the ... See full summary »

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Title: Marjoe (1972)

Marjoe (1972) on IMDb 7.6/10

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Won 1 Oscar. Another 1 win & 1 nomination. See more awards »

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Storyline

Part documentary, part expose, this film follows one-time child evangelist Marjoe Gortner on the "church tent" Revivalist circuit, commenting on the showmanship of Evangelism and "the religion business", prior to the start of "televangelism". Written by Steven F. Scharff <sfscharff@juno.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

You Keep the Faith...Marjoe Keeps the Money


Certificate:

PG | See all certifications »
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Release Date:

July 1972 (USA)  »

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Did You Know?

Trivia

The film was not shown in most of the southern United States due to the distributor's fear of the outrage it would cause. See more »

Quotes

Marjoe: Can God deliver a religion addict?
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Soundtracks

Onward Christian Soldiers
Words by Sabine Baring-Gould
Music by Arthur Sullivan
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User Reviews

 
A benchmark in American documentary
24 May 2007 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

This is of the finest documentaries I've seen, and I've seen quite a few at festivals in recent years. Not only is Marjoe Gortner as intriguing as any of the great charismatics and eccentrics of documentary cinema, but the documentary technique is top notch. The cinematography in the church scenes is dynamic yet sharp and focused, and the editing keeps the momentum with a steady stream of insights and revelations, culminating in the more honest and confessional final act. It's a relatively long movie, and the goings-on inside the church take up a large proportion of the runtime, but they're shot so expertly, with brave intimacy and varying points of interest, that they never become unbearable. The music, while painfully dated, is totally authentic.

The strange interplay and connectivity between the mainstream youth counter-culture, exemplified by the film crew and Marjoe in his interviews, and the Pentecostal subculture provides most of the thematic interest. There's nothing novel about relating fervent religiosity to the kinds of drug use prevalent in the 70s, but Marjoe's embodiment of this cultural duality, and the ease with which he transitions from ecstatic evangelical to a paragon of counter-cultural values, suggests that these two polar inclinations in American culture are not as disparate as imagined. Marjoe would rather have been a money grabbing rock star like Alice Cooper, and might have been given a different upbringing, but this is as close as he can get. That he's manipulating the spiritual passions of his audience is a fact subordinate to the satisfaction of performing and connecting emotionally. And even as he spouts religious rhetoric that means nothing to him, and takes the money of those expecting miracles and salvation, is he not giving the people exactly what they want, performing the spontaneous and charismatic rites of Pentecostal Christianity in a manner that is skillful and respectful of the traditions and expectations of that faith?

I don't think I can find a single glaring flaw in the film, even as it approaches ethically questionable territory on account of its complicity in Marjoe's act and the necessity to mislead those who are being filmed or interviewed. Certainly, more interactivity with the Pentacostal churchgoers would have been welcome. One questions whether Marjoe is being completely honest in his interviews, but for someone for whom performance and chicanery are inseparable aspects of life, do the filmmakers really need to press the question? Even without a narrating voice, the point comes across with the utmost clarity.


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