The resurgence in Italian cinema of Biblical films, particularly those dealing with the times of Jesus Christ, in the late 1970s and into the 1980s such as Pasquale Festa Campanile's IL LADRONE (1980), Ermanno Olmi's CAMMINA, CAMMINA (1981), Damiano Damiani's THE INQUIRY (1987), etc. was an odd one and, needless to say given its title, the film under review is yet another example.
However, this is not really a philosophical meditation on those times or anything heavy like that which one would have perhaps expected from director Magni, an expert at politically-oriented historical dramas such as NELL' ANNO DEL SIGNORE (1969) and IN THE NAME OF THE POPE KING (1977), with his own script veering uneasily between the literary and the vulgar (apart from including ample gratuitous nudity, actors incongruously adopt modern slang in their speech when they should have probably been using Latin all along as seen in THE PASSION OF THE Christ )! Rather, it's an agreeably irreverent and occasionally whimsical fictionalization of famous events (with recognizable figures such as Caiaphas, Annas, Joseph of Arimathea, and the centurion Longinus putting in sizeable appearances) and, accordingly, features a trio of stars equally adept at comedy. Magni regular Nino Manfredi is typically fine as an aging and world-weary Pontius Pilate, while perennial beauty Stefania Sandrelli is his wife Claudia who, with Lando Buzzanca (as Pilate's lieutenant), is revealed to have been a secret admirer of Jesus; both, actually, convert to Christianity soon after the crucifixion.
For what it's worth, the film's highlights all occur during its latter half: Herod Antipas (Flavio Bocci) hilariously deconstructing the myth of his father Herod The Great's notorious massacre of the infants in his quest to eliminate Baby Jesus (coming to the logical conclusion that the victims couldn't have been more than six at the most!) here, too, it's amusing that the voluptuous Salome' is never allowed to finish her proverbial Dance Of The Seven Veils!; Pilate's meeting with a crazed and crippled Barabbas (Roberto Herlitzka) in a prison cell where the latter dementedly claims that it was he and not the Veronica who wiped Christ's face on the way to Golgotha!; and Pilate's own trial before Emperor Tiberius (Mario Scaccia) for having sent to death the King of the Jews and a God to boot! where he miraculously cures his sovereign of leprosy by covering the latter's face with Veronica's er Barabbas' blessed handkerchief. This is followed, at the conclusion, by Pilate himself being visited at the moment of execution by a female angel whom he had already encountered but denied seeing in the presence of others! Italian singer/songwriter Angelo Branduardi's folksy acoustic soundtrack provides effective accompaniment to the film.
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