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Birth, the Life and the Death of Christ, The (1906)
*** (out of 4)
This ambitious French film is often overlooked when people discuss epics but you pretty much have to consider this one considering most movies of this era were running under nine-minutes but this one here lasts a whopping thirty-three. The movie tells the story of Christ in twenty-one different "chapters" and it's quite an ambitious little film even if the end results really aren't as good as one would have hoped. I think film buffs will certainly find this thing to be of interest but I think those who enjoy religious movies will also find this thing curious. I think the biggest problem is that the movie is extremely uneven because of the style the story is told. We will get a title card telling us what the chapter is called and then we'll see the images. Some of these chapters (like caring the cross) will run upwards of a minute but there are some (Jesus Sleeping) that only last a few seconds. I'm really not sure why some of the sequences here were included at all when some of the bigger parts (Judas) are left a little short. Another minor problem is that Guy never moves the camera in the movie, which takes away from some of the dramatic moments. Even though this was a few years away from Griffith, folks like Porter were doing a better job with the camera than what's on display here. One key sequence where this is noticeable is when they talk about Jesus and his pain of being on the cross yet the camera is so far back that you can never see his face, which is clearly what we were suppose to be looking at. What does work are many of the costumes and the art design isn't too bad either. I think there were a few effective moments including the Resurrection as well as the sequence where the cross becomes too much and Jesus falls to the floor. While the film is certainly creaky in spots there's no denying that at the same time it's highly impressive just for the effort.
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