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The Last Temptation of Christ(1988)
A depiction of Christ's life including a vision of what his life might have been like had he not been crucified.
For more about The Last Temptation of Christ and the The Last Temptation of Christ Blu-ray release, see the The Last Temptation of Christ Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on June 11, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.0 out of 5.
Director: Martin Scorsese
Writer: Paul Schrader
Starring: Willem Dafoe, Harvey Keitel, Barbara Hershey, Harry Dean Stanton, David Bowie, Verna Bloom
» See full cast & crew
The Last Temptation of Christ Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, June 11, 2013
Winner of Filmcritica Bastone Bianco Award at the Venice Film Festival, Martin Scorsese's "The Last Temptation of Christ" (1988) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Universal Pictures-UK. The supplemental features on the disc include an original theatrical trailer for the film and video interview with director Martin Scorsese. In English, with optional English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Italian, Arabic, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Hindi, Icelandic, Norwegian, Japanese, and Swedish subtitles for the main feature. Region-Free.
I suppose the most fascinating aspect of Martin Scorsese's The Last Temptation of Christ is the fact that it dares to see and describe Jesus as a human being. Obviously, this immediately suggests that Jesus was not as strong as some Christian extremists have argued. Obviously, this also suggests that a lot of the characters around Jesus could have had different personalities.
It is important to note, however, that with The Last Temptation of Christ Scorsese never meant to challenge the Scripture or change perceptions about Jesus and his followers. The film simply offers a different interpretation of certain events from his life without taking into account popular beliefs and treating them as undisputed facts.
I saw The Last Temptation of Christ long after I had read Nikos Kazantzakis' novel (incidentally, at the same time I had also become familiar with Mikhail Bulgakov's similarly bold and controversial The Master and Margarita). Unlike most viewers in the West, I was not surprised by the premise of the film and the hysteria that followed its premiere. What surprised me is how well Scorsese had managed to visualize Kazantzakis' thoughts and observations. The film gave them a spirit and simplicity that made it exceptionally easy to understand what Kazantzakis sought to accomplish with his novel.
The film's most controversial sequence appears towards the end, where Jesus (Willem Dafoe, The English Patient, Antichrist) is confronted by Satan - a moment of strength becomes a moment of weakness and transforms Jesus into an ordinary man. Led by his guardian angel, He returns home and marries Mary Magdelene (Barbara Hershey, The Entity), has children, and grows old. At one point, He also questions his followers and confronts God because He gains a new appreciation of life, which makes him as weak and vulnerable as ordinary men. Then, on his dying bed He is visited by the Apostles whose angry words inspire him to regain his consciousness.
As a Christian myself, I have never been offended by the portrayal of Jesus in this sequence. Admittedly, however, this has a lot to do with my firm belief that Jesus was not a blind idealist who despised ordinary men; He understood and loved them because He knew well their weaknesses and sins. Naturally, for me the sequence addresses the origin of his knowledge and depth of his strength, which is why I do not regard it as a sacrilegious attack on his divinity.
Ultimately, what makes The Last Temptation of Christ such a fascinating film to behold is not the fact that it sees and describes Jesus differently, but its ability to effectively force one to reevaluate one's beliefs and knowledge about his message. This is a respectful not arrogant and certainly not subversive film which encourages one to think, not accept blindly the authoritarian interpretations of religious extremists with dangerous agendas.
The cast is outstanding. Willem Dafoe's performance is bold and demanding respect. Especially during the final third of the film, where Jesus is led to Golgotha, he looks incredible. Harvey Keitel also delivers a memorable performance as Judas. Barbara Hershey is terrific as the poor Mary Magdalene.
The film was lensed by the great German cinematographer Michael Ballhaus (The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant, World on a Wire, GoodFellas). The film also boasts a stunningly atmospheric soundtrack courtesy of Peter Gabriel (Rabbit-Proof Fence).
Note: In 1988, The Last Temptation of Christ won Filmcritica Bastone Bianco Award at the Venice Film Festival.
The Last Temptation of Christ Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1, encoded with VC-1 and granted a 1080p transfer, Martin Scorsese's The Last Temptation of Christ arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Universal Pictures-UK.
The high-definition transfer used for this Pan-European release has little in common with the one Criterion used for their Blu-ray release of The Last Temptation of Christ in the United States. It appears to have been struck from a dated source with different issues and more often than not it definitely shows. For example, edge-enhancement is easy to spot practically throughout the entire film. It is not always distracting, but its presence is certainly felt (See screencapture #11). There are also traces of light to moderate denoising corrections, some of which make select sequences look quite flat (see screencaptures #1 and 16). Even close-ups with plenty of natural light often look rather disappointing. The color-scheme is also not identical to that of Criterion's release. Orange and brown, in particular, are a lot more prominent during the desert sequences (compare screencapture #14 with screencapture #12 from our review of the Criterion release). Lastly, while viewing the film I also noticed some light banding. All in all, I think that viewers with mid-size screens (46'-55') will probably have a fairly easy time tolerating most of the issues noted above, but viewers with larger screens, and especially those who project their films, will most likely find them to be quite distracting. (Note: This is a Region-Free Blu-ray release. Therefore, you will be able to play it on your PS3 or SA regardless of your geographical location. For the record, there is no problematic PAL or 1080/50i content preceding the disc's main menu).
The Last Temptation of Christ Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There are five standard audio tracks on this Blu-ray release: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, French DTS 2.0, Italian DTS 2.0, German DTS 2.0, and Spanish DTS 2.0. For the record, Universal Pictures-UK have provided optional English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Italian, Arabic, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Hindi, Icelandic, Norwegian, Japanese, and Swedish subtitles for the main feature.
The lossless track is every bit as impressive as the one from the Criterion release. Depth, clarity, and fluidity are indeed excellent. I think that anyone who has previously experienced The Last Temptation of Christ only on DVD and is now going to view it for the first time on Blu-ray is guaranteed to be overwhelmed by the power and beauty of Peter Gabriel's score. I truly think that it sounds quite incredible. The dialog is very crisp, clean, and easy to follow.
The Last Temptation of Christ Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Note: The supplemental features included on this release are perfectly playable on North American Blu-ray machines, including the PS3.
The Last Temptation of Christ Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
If you reside in a Region-B territory and can play Region-A discs, my advice to is to consider importing Criterion's very good Blu-ray release of The Last Temptation of Christ. Not only does it use a notably stronger high-definition transfer, but it also has a better selection of supplemental features. Fans of the film, however, should also consider picking up this release from Universal Pictures because it has a very good interview with director Martin Scorsese that is not included on the Criterion release.
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