Eye For Film >> Movies >> Jesus Of Montreal (1989) Film Review
Jesus Of Montreal
Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray
Daniel is an actor. He has the face of a starved angel. He is asked to take over the passion play, performed every year on Mount Royal, above Montreal, and give it a radical, modern interpretation.
He accepts the offer and sets about choosing his cast. He finds Constance working in a soup kitchen. "I've come for you," he says. She follows. Martin is in a studio, dubbing a blue movie. He leaves at once.
Rene is rehearsing a new commentary at the planetarium and Mireille performing in a scent commercial. They drop everything - influential lover, well-paid jobs - to help recreate the story of Christ's death for small audiences on a limited run out-of-doors at night.
As Daniel studies fresh facts about the life of Jesus to incorporate into the play, he identifies more and more. Already, even before the commission, his attitude towards acting and the state of the world has become intense and idiosyncratic.
The film exposes hypocrisy (money changers at the temple) within TV advertising, introduces temptation (Satan in the wilderness) through an unctuous publicist and condemns the Church for its innate conservatism when Daniel's innovations are banned for questioning accepted truths.
Denys Arcand, who made Decline Of The American Empire in 1986, is too subtle to let Daniel simply suffer contemporary alternatives of Christ's agony, although they are there if you look, preferring to play games and crack jokes whenever anyone feels reverence coming on.
He is an intelligent writer who refuses to take himself seriously. Lothaire Bluteau, as Daniel, is so sincere that a few satirical jibes are necessary to knock spots off his deeply felt introspection. Arcand appears himself, as a bored judge, enlivening a court scene with cynical asides.
The film is clever, funny and tragic. Its apparent complexity is a conjuring trick.
"Life is hard to bear," Daniel announces, finally.
Truth, as Jesus discovered, kills. Only jokers and journeymen survive. And believers.Reviewed on: 11 Sep 2003