It isn't difficult to imagine why this 1988 retelling of the Crucifixion story was picketed vociferously upon release--this Jesus bears little resemblance to the classical Christ, who was not, upon careful review of the Gospels, ever reported to have had sex with Barbara Hershey. Heavily informed by Gnostic reinterpretations of the Passion, The Last Temptation of Christ (based rather strictly on Nikos Kazantzakis's novel of the same name) is surely worth seeing for the controversy and blasphemous content alone, but it's difficult to find in skittish chain video stores. But the "last temptation" of the title is nothing overtly naughty--rather, it's the seduction of the commonplace; the desire to forgo following a "calling" in exchange for domestic security. Willem Dafoe interprets Jesus as spacy, indecisive, and none too charismatic (though maybe that's just Dafoe himself), but his Sermon on the Mount is radiant with visionary fire; a bit less successful is method actor Harvey Keitel, who gives the internally conflicted Judas a noticeable Brooklyn accent, and doesn't bring much imagination to a role that demands a revisionist's approach. Despite director Martin Scorsese's penchant for stupid camera tricks, much of the desert footage is simply breathtaking, even on small screen. Ultimately, Last Temptation is not much more historically illuminating than Monty Python's Life of Brian, but hey, if it's authenticity you're after, try Gibbon's. --Miles Bethany
Criterions release of Scorseses The Last Temptation of Christ effectively presents both the films beauty and controversy. Produced on an extremely tight budget, The Last Temptation of Christ has a very epic feel that is wonderfully captured on this DVD. Though a few specks and scratches are apparent throughout the 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation, the overall visual quality is quite sharp and vibrant. The newly mastered Dolby Digital 5.1 track is a phenomenal improvement noticeably enhancing ambient sounds, dialog and Peter Gabriels moving soundtrack. There are various added extras which really put the films content into perspective. The stellar commentary track includes director Martin Scorsese, star Willem Dafoe, screenwriter Paul Schrader and film critic Jay Cocks candidly discussing various aspects of the production; including the initial obstacles, extensive research, and notorious controversial elements. This is a great DVD for fans and an informative one for those who wish to see past its notoriety. --Rob Bracco
At last, Martin Scorsese's most personal masterpiece can be seen outside of the controversy it engendered, and be seen for what it is: a l5-year labor of love. Nikos Kazantzakis' landmark novel comes to breathtaking life in this moving and spiritual film. The all-star cast includes Harvey Keitel, Barbara Hershey, Harry Dean Stanton, David Bowie, and Willem Dafoe as Jesus. Criterion is proud to present this cinematic treasure in an exclusive Director Approved special edition.