14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Lord works in mysterious ways
One hardly knows where to begin when discussing The Gospel According to Saint Matthew. Aside from the religious aspects of the film, you have to talk about Pasolini's techniques and motivations. While I didn't like certain aspects of the film, I certainly can't deny the fact that, as a Christian, this film moved me in a very powerful way. What makes this so amazing is the...
Published on July 11 2006 by Daniel Jolley
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Great film, poor DVD
Pasolini's "The Gospel According to St. Matthew" is one of the great Italian director's most accessable films. It is also one of the few films about the life of Christ that looks and feels as if it was filmed during the time that Christ lived - this is no Hollywood production - this feels like the real thing (the one star is not for this 5 star film.)
Published on Aug. 4 2003
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Lord works in mysterious ways,
I can't say I'm in love with Pasolini's filmmaking technique. The opening scenes of the film play like a silent film, with words few and far between. Pasolini tells most of the early story through the faces of his characters (and I should mention that he depended heavily on regular people rather than actors in the cast - his mother, for example, plays Mary). Pasolini is absolutely in love with pans and close-ups. On occasion, the camera starts moving one way, then suddenly zigs and zooms in an entirely different direction - this, to me, is sloppy technique; either the cameraman started going the wrong way or else he decided on the spur of the moment to capture something entirely different than what was planned. Once Jesus begins his ministry, the dialogue takes hold of the story, but the cinematography is always a prominent part of the presentation. All of the panning yields blurred background images, for example. More importantly, Pasolini presents his story from the viewpoint of a follower of Jesus; oftentimes, you have the equivalent of someone walking behind the action with a camcorder. I found this rather annoying early on, but the technique works wonderfully once Jesus is put on trial and crucified, as you see events unfold from the perspective of a John the beloved or a Mary. The music, while noticeably strange at first (e.g., "Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child" with its English-language lyrics and a later song that seems to have roots in 20th century blues), becomes nothing short of mesmerizing as the movie progresses toward the end. Unconventional, thy name is Pasolini.
The film truly does tell the story of Jesus' life, death, and resurrection as recorded in the book of Matthew. You won't see several well-known scenes of Jesus' life and teaching simply because they weren't recorded in the first Gospel. Likewise, the trial of Jesus, his crucifixion, and his resurrection all feel a little rushed simply because Luke and John describe the scenes in much greater detail than does Matthew. Still, the final scenes of this film are extraordinarily powerful. One problem I had with the film, though, was the fact that Jesus came across as quite an angry young man throughout much of the film - but, of course, Matthew presents Jesus in a slightly different light than do Mark, Luke, and John.
I don't know much about Pier Paolo Pasolini, nor do I think I could figure the man out even if I did. A half-hour look at the man is included on this DVD, and it certainly shows what a complicated fellow he is. As I mentioned earlier, he is both an atheist and a Marxist with strong Communist ties. His efforts with this film seem to be an attempt to take the Jesus of Matthew's Gospel and have him speak, in a strong socialistic sense, for the Italian peasantry of Pasolini's era (the film came out in 1964). That, I believe, explains the anger I saw in Pasolini's Jesus, and Jesus' bitter denunciations of the religious hypocrites of ancient Palestine could, I would surmise, apply to the Catholic Church or any institution of authority in Pasolini's own time. All I know for sure, however, is that this film is wide open for interpretation and debate.
The Lord truly does work in mysterious ways. With The Gospel According to Saint Matthew, an avowed atheist and Marxist has given the world one of the most powerful film representations of the life, love, and sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pasolini's first masterpiece,
Can you imagine a less likely candidate to make what, after 40 years, may still be the greatest and most moving film about Jesus Christ? Pasolini was not only a gay Marxist but a devout atheist. His fascination with Jesus may have connected with his most personal theme, that of the outsider (with his artistic, political and sexual nature, he saw himself as the consummate outsider). Although one of Italy's leading intellectuals, he also moved among the laborers, indigents, and hustlers (some of whom were his lovers, not to mention the inspiration for his early poetry and novels), whose counterparts two millennia earlier had walked with Jesus.
Jesus's story also let Pasolini explore the complexities of real-world politics even while recreating an ancient culture with astonishing immediacy. He also relished the opportunity to play with a vast, and eclectic, artistic tradition, from Jean-Luc Godard's striking documentary style in "the two trials of Christ.... to painting... Piero della Francesca (in the Pharisees' clothes), Byzantine art, Christ's face like a Rouault, etc."
We also see El Greco not only in some compositions but in the intriguing casting of Enrique Irazoqui, a Catalan economics student, as Jesus. Pasolini had also considered such young, subversive literary lions as Jack Kerouac and Yevgeny Yevtushenko. With Pasolini's encyclopedic knowledge of all the arts, you could go on indefinitely trying to unravel the cultural allusions which make up just one strand of the film's rich texture.
The result, as they say, is history. It is like no biblical picture seen before; a quantum leap beyond the artificiality of, say, King of Kings, both De Milles's silent version and Nicholas Ray's 1961 remake, and later pictures like Scorsese's Last Temptation of Christ are inconceivable without Pasolini's model.
Pasolini had the uncanny gift for using the simplest, most economical means to bring his vision to life. Some of the locations are breathtaking, from an enormous city which seems to grow out of a mountainside to the surreal wasteland where Satan tempts Jesus (filmed on Mount Etna). By imaginatively selecting these locales - and not having to build sets - Pasolini powerfully recreated the feel of the ancient Middle East at a tiny fraction of the cost of a Hollywood production.
He also took enormous pains to cast exactly the right faces. Radically, he chose real farmers and workers to enact their historical counterparts (instead of John Wayne playing a Roman centurion as in The Greatest Story Ever Told). Perhaps the film's most intriguing aspect is that all the characters seem drained of an inner emotional life (which elsewhere Pasolini explores rigorously). This is sacred material presented in the style of legend. This visual and performance approach matches Matthew's prose to perfection. But there could also be more provocative reasons for it.
Take the Sermon on the Mount montage, consisting entirely of close-ups of Jesus preaching with immense force - the background reflecting each changing verse. (The footage came from the abandoned sacred-style approach; Pasolini ingeniously integrated it by using sharp editorial rhythms.) Here as throughout the film, Pasolini's Jesus is both earthly and otherworldly, harsh and tender. And although his inner life remains completely opaque, he emerges - perhaps in part because he has been 'de-psychologized' - as a figure of power but also complexity and ambiguity. Pasolini was forever picking apart the discrepancies not only in society - including religion and politics (as seen in Accattone and Hawks and the Sparrows) - but in himself. Here we see the "tough" Jesus, who "comes not to bring peace," smites a fig tree, violently hurls moneychangers out of the Temple, and warns people that they are either "with me or against me." But we also see the Jesus of love and compassion, who heals the sick, treats children with affection, and performs miracles (most are breathtaking, reproduced with the simplest means, as when he walks on water).
The only aspect of this magnificent film which does not work for me is the self-consciously eclectic (and Oscar-nominated!) use of music, which extends from Bach to Prokofiev to folk music. Pasolini wants this polyglot score to create subtle, and shifting, tensions between the world of ancient Judea and our own, but its incongruity and repetitiveness are sometimes distracting. By contrast, the use of silence is stunning. He communicates so much in the wordless opening scene between the pregnant Mary and her baffled husband, just by their faces and postures. These are people truly, yet to them confusingly, touched by the divine. He also captures the tactile reality of their world (you can feel the stones), even as his simple but striking compositions connect his own vision with such Renaissance masters as Giotto. This is filmmaking at its most subtle, resonant, and - while acknowledging the long tradition of Christian motifs in art - original. Pasolini brings together history, art and his own probing genius to depict Jesus in all of his humanity and divinity.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Great film, poor DVD,
By A Customer
However I want to warn potential purchasers that this Water Bearer version is a high priced non-anamorphic, poor quality print (although it claims to be digitally remastered), it has burned in subtitles with no chapter stops. I had thought DVD production and quality had improved greatly in the last couple of years, this is an unfortunate (1 star) exception. If you want to see another great Pasolini film with a great anamorphic almost pristine transfer I would direct you to MGM's version of his "The Decameron".
2.0 out of 5 stars unbelievably boring,
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent film, poor transfer,
As with the other Waterberer Pasolini DVD's, this one features burned-in subtitles that are really difficult to read, no chapter stops, and the same 30-minute documentary.
I understand that there is a superior Region 2 release of this film, but I don't have a region-free player so I can't really verify that information.
This is a fantastic film, and deserves better treatment. For now, however, this is all we've got.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Review for class!,
This review is from: The Gospel According to St. Matthew (VHS Tape)The film on a whole is authenitic because it doesn't try to glamorize the action or put a typical "Hollywood" twist on things. It shows the way the people and circumstances of the times should be portrayed and not with the characteristic cleaned up look seen in so many biblical films.
The only drawback is with the subtitles. Many times the lightness of the film made it impossible to read what was being said. This is partly why I gave it three stars, also while viewing the film, when Herod sends his men out to kill the children, there was audible laughter from my classmates, which suggest the scene was not quite plausible. Also, there were several scenes which were given a "dramatic pause" but really just seemed to drag and lose meaning.
5.0 out of 5 stars An atheist's view of God,
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This review is from: The Gospel According to St. Ma (DVD)There have been several excellent reviews on this DVD that rightly praise the authenticity, simplicity, and spiritual qualities of Pasolini's masterpiece . Its detractors, who are generally happy with its content, direct their criticism mainly to its technical limitations such as poor subtitles, an imperfect transfer, or the irritations of dubbing. It is unfortunate that these comments seem to apply to several entirely different versions, even including a VHS copy. It is unhelpful and misleading of Amazon to lump all these products together. I want to begin by dealing firstly with this issue. The DVD I purchased is credited to Legend Films. It holds an 'extended' version of the original black-and-white copy, the quality of which is very satisfactory; there is no difficulty whatever in reading the subtitles. A coloured version dubbed in 'English' -- actually 'American' -- is also included. A written biography of Pasolini and his Filmography comprises the Extras. There is no booklet. The two versions provide very different experiences and deserve to be critiqued independently.
The original is the most spiritually and artistically moving of the many religious films I have seen in my 65 years as a cinemaphile. This accomplishment is the outcome of many attributes: authenticity, simplicity, a feeling of utter truthfulness in the telling of the story, and the spare economy with which it is told. This is the movie that one would have expected that arch-Catholic master of the cinema, Robert Bresson, to make, and the manner of its making uncannily follows his precepts to the letter: strict use of non-professional actors; keeping dialogue to a minimum; and allowing the story to unfold through expressions, gestures and actions of the participants rather than through their words. Indeed most of the spoken text of this film has nothing to do with the action, but is (in the Italian version) a poetic declamation of Christ's teachings and prophecies. The gritty humanity of the characters is another key element in the success of this work. There is no feeling of the saintly or the supernatural here. The Angel of the Annunciation is just a pretty young girl bearing no wings; the Devil, a curiously sly and persuasive merchant without horns. The whole experience goes beyond mere Religion. It is a conflict between the workers and peasants against those in authority, as well as a contest between Organized Religion that has strayed from its principles, and those adherents who want to purify it of its acquired corruption. These tensions explain why the subject appealed to a homosexual atheistic Communist rather than to an orthodox conservative Catholic.
The coloured version is a conundrum. It is not clear how it came about and whether Pasolini had anything to do with it beyond creating the original celluloid. It appears to have emerged from studio workshops in Santa Monica, California, and those involved bear 'Californian' names. The infusion of colour, done with consummate skill, turns the experience into a visual feast: a tour through the great religious paintings of the Renaissance. Frame after frame conjures up Raphael, Da Vinci, Breughel and Bosch. The scenery and the urban settings seem to be more sharply and realistically focused, but the spiritual quality and the sense of mystery are diminished. Most disappointing of all, the dubbing destroys the wonderful poetry of the Italian language version, and turns the great sermons into speeches suitable only for an American Presidential Campaign. Although I did not time it, the pace of the film is speeded up, the cutting rather more abrupt, and the long silent dramatic close-ups ( think of Eisenstein and Carl Dreyer ) are held for shorter periods in the coloured copy. Nevertheless, the eclectic score ( presumably selected by Pasolini) that leans heavily on Bach and Russian music, especially Prokofiev's music for Alexander Nevsky, but also includes Webern and Negro spirituals, is mercifully preserved, and I could not detect any significant change in the actual content beyond the technical issues described. The price I paid was around $13, one of the most rewarding purchases I have made in a very long time.
4.0 out of 5 stars The truest interpretation of the gospel,
This review is from: The Gospel According to St. Matthew [Import] (DVD)Who would have thought that an unbelieving homosexual Marxist would have made perhaps the best interpretation of Jesus Christ in the history of the cinema? Pier Paolo Pasolini had a great respect for Christ, despite not believing him to be the savior of the world; and who wouldn't have respect for a man willing to die because he loves you? Pasolini made the film to give a fair measure to Christ and he succeeds on every level.
Despite a low budget, the film encompasses the entire gospel of St.Matthew accurately and realistically, utilizing Italian peasants and non-actors to fill the supporting roles. There is no political or moral side taken to making the film; the events recorded by Matthew are shown as they are written, and nothing more. To me this is a strength and it makes me happy to see a film take the literature seriously.
Another thing that I liked was the lack of gore details. I have nothing against violence in films, but I felt that Mel Gibson's recent film dwelt on the violent aspects far too much. The crucification and resurrection are shown, but they are not focused entirely on. As a Christian I feel that Jesus' representation comes through the miracles and the sacrifice, not just the sacrifice, and this film shows both with a fair disposition to the other.
Recommended for Christians or atheists who love Italian cinema. It is broad enough and good enough to work with almost any lover of film.
5.0 out of 5 stars a literal, riveting telling,
This review is from: Gospel According to St Matthew [Import] (VHS Tape)Filmed in Southern Italy in rocky hillside villages and along the coast, Pasolini's "Gospel" has the feel of a silent film, with its long close-ups of its cast of non-professional actors, which include Susanna Pasolini, the filmmaker's mother, and how the camera loves these rough, beautiful and distinctive faces...it is like a moving tapestry of Renaissance paintings, and a visual artist's dream film.
Enrique Irazoqui's Jesus, with his lofty forehead, thick eyebrows that meet over his nose, and coal black eyes, is stern and compelling, and recites the Gospel with strength and mettle.
Released forty years ago, the quality of this black and white film is gritty, which adds to the harsh depiction of the life and the landscape. Though much less ambitious, it reminds me a little of Tarkovsky's "Andrei Rublev", and it has the same pacing (especially in the first hour) and gravity. The soundtrack also shows signs of age, and includes Bach, Mozart, Prokofiev, Webern, some American spirituals ("Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child" during the Manger scene), Kol Nidrei during the Last Supper scene, and Missa Luba. There is also a biting wind, whooshing and whistling though much of the film.
The tape that I own is dubbed, and this is the only instance where I don't find dubbing intrusive. Since the dialogue is literal and familiar, and many scenes are purely visual, the dubbing frees one to just take in this marvelous interpretation of St. Matthew's Gospel, which is sometimes simple and sometimes quite savage (the Massacre of the Innocents is chaotic); a must see for anyone interested in Christianity, and students of film and the graphic arts.
4.0 out of 5 stars A Great Movie Experience - But Revert Back To Subtitles!,
This review is from: Gospel According to St Matthew [Import] (VHS Tape)Pasolini's THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO ST. MATTHEW is by far his best ever work and probably the greatest movie on the life of Jesus ever made.
I have this movie on VHS with English subtitles and this will be the one I stick with. Dubbing this movie into English was a big mistake.
However, this is still a wonderful movie in it's simplicity. The cast is superb as are the locations and imagery.
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The Gospel According to St. Ma by Pier Paolo Pasolini (DVD - 2009)
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