On October 21, 1988, a Parisian cinema exploded. Eleven were injured, some seriously. A few weeks earlier, 10,000 people demonstrated in front of Universal Studios. At the same time, a conservative institution (Tradition, Family and Property) published a full-page petition in the New York Times calling for a boycott. The film was shown in many theaters in the United States and in every one of them, at every performance, there were protesters with insulting signs and spitting on the people who came to see it. It was banned in many countries: Argentina, Israel, Mexico, Turkey and Chile, among others.
35 years ago it was released in the United States, The Last Temptation of ChristThe film directed by Martin Scorsese was marked as blasphemous and heretical. It is possible that no film has caused so much commotion and produced so many discussions (and bans) in the last decades of the 20th century.
The premiere was planned for early October 1988. But the study brought it forward by six weeks. The reason was not very clear. The speculations were two. The first was that The Last Temptation of Christ I did not have a blockbuster ambition, but a cult movie, art cinema that lasts almost three hours, with a limited audience. But that before the scandal, the executives saw the chance to turn it into a box office phenomenon; They believed that the arguments, media confrontations and even public demonstrations of repudiation would boost ticket sales. The other is that in the face of many previous commotions, they believed that they would not endure six more weeks in the light while the film, unseen by anyone, became public enemy number one, the most heretical work of art in recent decades. : calculation, it would be then if they didn’t release it on that date, they wouldn’t be able to do it again.
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The fault, it seems, was in the most beautiful Barbara Hershey. In the early sixties, on the set of Boxcar Bertha, the actress gave Scorsese the novel Niko Kazantzakis.
The book shocked the director. The things that had tormented him, worried him for years, were there. Collision between the soul and the body, the temptation, Catholic guilt and a Jesus is different from the usual, torture, show (imagine, actually) more in its human aspect that of the divine With emotions such as guilt, fear, lust, fear and even depression. From the moment he finished reading it, he knew that he would make a film based on this text. His world, his obsessions, were there.
He was not worried when he found that Kazantzakis, also the author Zorba the Greekafter the publication of his work on Jesus was excommunicate by the Greek Orthodox Church.
Religion was one of Scorsese’s themes: “In my neighborhood, in Little Italy, when we were kids, our parents only let us go to two places by ourselves: to church and to the movies. Some young people only wanted two things when they grew up: gangster or priest. Even for me at one point, the religious vocation crossed my mind.”
Another aspect of the novel that suits Scorsese perfectly is that Jesus was a tortured character, who He fought against his weaknesses who were tormented by temptations. like him
The director even explained it in an interview included in the book Scorsese by Scorsese published in Spanish by Editorial El Cuenco de Plata: “It seemed to me that the emphasis on the human side of the representation of Jesus without diverting the question of God was an accessible gesture. The divine dimension does not fully understand what the human part wants; he must transform himself and eventually sacrifice himself on the cross, and the man of Christ can only assimilate this step by step.
When he was still a child, in one of his trips to the cinema, he saw The sacred mantle. From that afternoon, Scorsese had a desire, almost a need, to make a film with Jesus as protagonist. But of course, you shouldn’t King of kings o Jesus of Nazarethor like other typical biblical films that for many years dominated television programs during Easter.
Martin Scorsese was not stupid. He knew he could be in trouble. I also knew that the film was made at the wrong time. A decade earlier, when he imagined it, the world, the United States and Hollywood were different. A movie like The Last Temptation of Christ it was possible in Hollywood in the seventies. At the time of the release, the Reagan Era was at its height.
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To protect yourself, in the beginning a sign warned -as if it was essential- that it was a work of fiction: “This film is not based on the Gospels, but on the fictional exploration of eternal spiritual conflict.” Then another poster followed, a text taken from the novel by the Greek writer, an epigraph that uncovered the heart of the film, making clear the obsession and dilemma that tormented both Kazantzakis and Scorsese: “The dual substance of Christ, the The longing, so human, so superhuman in man to God, has always been a deep and inscrutable mystery to me. My main heart and the source of all my joys and sorrows have been from my incessant youth, without mercy the battle between the mind and the bodyand my soul is the ground where these two armies collided and met.”
After Barbara Hershey’s gift, Scorsese carried the novel with him for many years. He entrusted the script to Paul Schrader who knew how to extract the essentials, the essence of the novel. After wild bullIt seemed like Scorsese would be produced by any project he put forward, but this one in particular always met with some kind of reluctance. Until after completion The king of comedy, this great film a bit underrated for years with Jerry Lewis and Robert De Niro, in 1983 it seemed that everything was ready to start shooting. A big budget, locations in Israel and Morocco and Paramount as the studio in charge. The cast has already been chosen, the shooting day established and the money is safe. but the groups conservative they started sending letters of complaint to the studio and to the companies that own it such as Gulf & Western. The producers dropped out one by one until Scorsese informed that the project was shelved indefinitely. He, without fully understanding the situation, rewrote the script and cut the budget in half. They told him no again. It was not a question of money.
When he found out more about the subject, he found out that the president is in cinema chain The biggest on the east coast made sure that they would never show the movie in their theaters. And that since they also had actions in the cable channels, it should not be broadcast by them either. Scorsese wanted to meet with him. The first thing he learned when he arrived at the meeting was that the man had never read the script, nor had any of his closest collaborators. But everyone was convinced that it was a blasphemous film.
At one point there was the possibility of refloating the project under the auspices of the French government, especially Jack Lang, the Minister of Culture. But at the same time another scandal that combined religion and cinema exploded: Godard was the first I salute you Maria. And it was impossible to continue.
While he could convince producers, and be serious, Scorsese filmed on demand (although put his signature on each shot). After Hours y the color of money and Tom Cruise and Paul Newman. But that’s not the only thing he did to be able to roll The Last Temptation of Christ. He also changed managers because Michael Ovitz promised to get the financing (he did) and reduced the budget and changed locations.
For the role of Jesus there were several candidates: Eric Roberts, Christopher Walken and Scorsese’s favorite, Aidan Quinn. finally it was Willem Dafoe from excellent to Platoon. For years it was suspected that many did not accept because they received pressure from extreme Catholic groups.
Judah it was Harvey Keitel and Barbara Hershey lived with Maria Magdalena almost 15 years after the initial push was given to the project. Sting turned down the role of Pontus Pilate because it overlapped with the Amnesty tour (another member of this tour was involved in another way: Peter Gabriel was in charge of the soundtrack) and Scorsese turned to another musician who wanted a career in film: David Bowie.
Evangelical pastor Bill Bright made an offer to Universal. He paid millions of dollars for the negative. Once in his power he would destroy it. Some directors of the study and time regret not accepted: they would have saved many problems and, especially, they would have earned some money.
Among the (several) opponents, was Franco Zefirelli that year before Jesus of Nazareth directed: “I would like to see Scorsese’s film burn. And, perhaps, it too,” he said.
Although the films that deal with the face of Jesus and distance themselves from the strict text of the Gospels and the hagiographic, such as Jesus Christ Superstar y brian lifethey had difficulties and generated some kind of conflict, which broke out The last temptation not seen before.
The most controversial scene is the one where Jesus has sex -very chaste- and Mary Magdalene. But it was a dream scene. Jesus dreamed of this situation.
In Argentina, the film was not released. The controversy reached the cover of all newspapers and magazines. Everyone thought. And the majority, from bishops to television journalists, from politicians to traditionalist groups, censored. And they threatened direct attack if any cinema dared to show it. They all agreed on one thing: they had not seen the film.
Eight years later, the conflict took on a new life. A channel can announce it in its programming. Other times the letters, the petitions, the protests, the editorials in the newspapers. And there was also a court filing asking to ban its broadcasts. The judge accepted the request.
The movie was a big one economic failure, caused that for some years Martin Scorsese had to move with bodyguards and made him and Willem Dafoe lose several jobs. nonetheless, the critics treated it well. and his colleagues recognized him with a Oscar nomination as best director.
Many years later, when asked how he saw this film, what conclusions he drew from the project and all the cruelty it caused, Martin Scorsese replied: “I considered that it was, in a certain way way, a religious sign, that God had. said that I was not ready to make the film and I needed to suffer more humiliation. It’s true, I’m convinced of it.”
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