In pre-war Italy, a young couple have a baby boy. The father, however, is jealous of his son - and the scene moves to antiquity, where the baby is taken into the desert to be killed. He is ... See full summary »
Having renounced her ignominious past, a former streetwalker reunites with her son. However, an extortion scheme endangers her aspirations for a decent bourgeois life. Can she protect him from the same snares that wounded her youth?
Pier Paolo Pasolini
After his quest to retrieve the fabled Golden Fleece, Jason returns to Greece with the powerful sorceress, Medea. However, when the king banishes her, it's only human that Medea plots her furious revenge. Can they escape her wrath?
Pier Paolo Pasolini
Ancient Arabia. A youth is chosen by a beautiful slave girl to be her new master; she is kidnapped and they must search for each other. Stories are told within stories; love, travel and the whims of destiny.
Two dramatic stories. In an undetermined past, a young cannibal (who killed his own father) is condemned to be torn to pieces by some wild beasts. In the second story, Julian, the young son... See full summary »
Pier Paolo Pasolini
While scouting locations for his classic "The Gospel According to St. Matthew", director Pier Paolo Pasolini noticed that filming in the actual site of the story, in Palestine, wouldn't be ... See full summary »
Along a rocky, barren coastline, Jesus begins teaching, primarily using parables. He attracts disciples; he's stern, brusque, and demanding. He comes to bring a sword, not peace, he says. He's in a hurry, moving from place to place near the Sea of Galilee, sometimes attracting a multitude, sometimes being driven away. His parables often take on the powers that be, so he and his teachings come to the attention of the Pharisees, the chief priests, and elders. They conspire to have him arrested, beaten, tried, and crucified, just as he prophesied to his followers. After he dies, he appears to his disciples and gives them final instructions.Written by
Before I saw Pasolini's "Il Vangelo secondo Matteo" I was uncertain if I even wanted to see it. I was aware that when he made that film the director was influenced by Italian neorealism, a movement which has little appeal for me. At the same time, Pasolini's later films are some of the greatest ever made. Eventually, my love for Pasolini's later works won out and I saw the movie. While "Il Vangelo secondo Matteo" is indebted to neorealism, as in its use of non-professional actors, this does not in the least detract from its quality.
Enrique Irazoqui, who plays Jesus, gives an excellent performance. He brings an intensity and harshness to the role that is very much in accord with the Jesus portrayed in numerous passages of the gospels. Margherita Caruso, who plays Mary as a young women, is an inspired choice. Although she does very little, and I cannot truly commend her for her acting, she has an amazing presence in this film, combining serenity, holiness, and innocence.
Pasolini paces the film well. It never drags, and never passes over subjects or incidents too quickly. The heroic quality of Jesus' life is strongly emphasized, his confrontations with existing religious authorities, his preaching of his message throughout Palestine, his bravery before the Roman authorities, and so on. Through demonstrations of his resolve, composure, and sternness, a real sense of the courage and dynamism of the character of Jesus is produced.
Pasolini's choices of locations could not have been better, and the scenes are staged and filmed skillfully, emphasizing the right emotions at the right times, whether those are feelings of sympathy, courage, or awe. I would not go so far as to say that any of these elements demonstrate brilliance, but they are very well done.
I was impressed with Pasolini's use of the gospels, which provide the bulk of what the character of Jesus actually says. I might note, also, that the harshness of much of the message is left intact. Conservative Christians might find this appealing, in that the director does not sanitize the message. Certainly, the pope enjoyed it. Pasolini received a medal from him. Non-Christians, and more liberal Christians, might find parts of the message to be a little frightening. When some of the harsher elements, especially the religious exclusivism (i.e., only those who believe in Christ have hope) are heard as spoken dialogue, rather than as words printed on a page, their impact is much greater, whether it is more disturbing or more inspiring. The film is a powerful evocation of the life of an important religious figure, and can be enjoyed by both believers and non-believers.
The film does have it's faults, however. The scene in which the "massacre of the innocents" is shown is poorly done. I personally found the depiction of the event to be somewhat comical, which clearly was not Pasolini's intention. The score, which draws on a variety of genres of Christian religious music is, by itself, beautiful. Unfortunately, I felt that it did not complement the film. The juxtaposition of disparate musical traditions with one another, and with the harsh world being visually depicted weakened the effect of both, had either stood on its own. I should say that these are relatively minor complaints. The film as a whole is a moving and impressive work. I do not think that it is as impressive a work as any of Pasolini's "Trilogy of Life" films, but it is a great film nonetheless.
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