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4.5 out of 5 stars27
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I saw "Jesus Of Montreal" in the cinema, and bought the VHS cassette as soon as it was released. It is an exceptional film, which definitely repays repeated watching...
However, this DVD is not the way to do so! First off, the back of the box claims that it is "16:9 anamorphic widescreen". Well, it isn't - it is 4:3 full screen. There is a suspicious lack of other technical information on the back of the box - no details of language, sound format or subtitles.
There is only a DD 2.0 French language soundtrack - fair enough, it's a French language film, and I wouldn't want to watch a dubbed version. However, there are *fixed* English subtitles burnt onto the frames of the film, and no DVD subtitle options at all.
Basically, you watch in 4:3 French language with English subtitles - that's your only option. The sound quality isn't bad, but the picture quality is pretty dreadful - I wouldn't be surprised to learn that this is a transfer from the VHS.
Even the chapter points are completely arbitrary - they're in the middle of scenes, rather than at the beginning. Oh, and the menu screen looks like it should be in some modern action film, rather than on an intellectual piece like this.
This DVD is a disgrace - "JoM" deserves much better. Wait until they do it properly...
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TOP 50 REVIEWERon 22 November 2013
Jesus of Montreal was a Palme d'Or winner at Cannes, and must certainly count as one of the more intellectual and challenging films even to have won that accolade. The group of actors, putting on a revised version of the passion play, fall foul of the Church authorities who find it too radical, while living lives that come to mirror their roles quite closely. It seems to get to the heart of the enigma of Christ, and questions how he would be received if he were alive today. It could be read as a Christian film, or a debunking of Christianity, presenting at the same time an apparent mystery of coincidence without any divine explanation, and focusing on context as all-important. It also shows how many Christian precepts obviously make sense as a code for living, while the mystery of events near the end adds one layer of enigma over another, like a palimpsest. The core group of 'actors' are very good, while Lothaire Bluteau astonishes in his psychological radiance, becoming something quite sublime - or possibly just delirious - after he has bumped his head. So there's the mystery of great acting as well - is it 'faking' something or does it get to deeper truths than normal existence? My only criticism arises out of its distancing stance - there is something detached about it, taken as a whole, that leaves you slightly unsatisfied, in the way you might be by Brecht. In one sense this throws Bluteau's heartrending flights into stark relief, but there is a slight sense of an intellectual puzzle that demonstrates rather than inhabits. If you like the classic German playwright, you're more likely to respond positively to this.
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Unsurprisingly, this intriguing French Canadian satire is set in the city of Montreal and is a fascinating critique of modern life, being not only a swipe at the conservative self-interest bureaucracy of the Church but also the insidious morals associated with materialism, in particular in relation to the media and advertising. When a small troupe of actors are hired by the Catholic Church to stage a revised version of a Passion play which has been performed for more than 40 years at the city’s basilica they are unprepared for the actors to immerse themselves in the message of Christ, interpreting events in a supposedly radical way with commitment and passion. This ‘play within a play’ is an absorbing and gripping experience and as the film progresses the lives of the actors appear to parallel those of the characters they portray as the religious authorities take issue with their efforts while their erstwhile friends and colleagues pour scorn over their participation in this low-paid, low-status gig. There are some incidents which certainly bear direct comparison to the Christ story such as the beer commercial casting session, the subsequent court appearance and the smooth elite lawyer tempting the actor playing Jesus with a successful and rich future career. Despite some deeper, philosophical and theological moments there are some genuinely humorous scenes with the dubbing of the pornographic film and the insertion of lines from Hamlet’s ‘To be or not to be’ soliloquy into the revised dialogue of the play particularly amusing. Although the satire dominates there are some affecting moments in the film which challenge the viewer to reflect, and despite not being a believer I was totally captivated by the acting in the Passion play and its message.
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on 28 January 2007
This is a wonderful film. One of my all time favourites. Thought provoking, funny, controversial and intelligent. The subtitling is good, but if you have any french you will gain all the more from it. I do recommend this film to those seeking an intelligent and modern interpretation of Christ's passion. You will get more from the film if you have a grounding in the bible version; but it's not for the fainthearted or straight-laced as it throws down many challenges to orthodox christian interpretation.
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HALL OF FAMEon 20 September 2012
When a group of fringe actors agree to stage a Passion Play at a local Catholic church in Montreal, the priest, the actors and the Catholic Church get far more than they bargained for. As the performances begin to draw hundreds, then thousands of people, the circumstances and the actors begin to reflect who and what they portray, including the man playing Jesus. It doesn't take long for the establishment, including the Church's leaders, to order the play stopped. I don't know how many viewers would take this movie as essentially redemptive or how many would take it as a sharp criticism of institutional religion. Me? It's not bad as a black comedy.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 23 March 2011
A group of young actors put on an updated, radical version of the
passion play, and find new meanings in their lives, spiritual and
otherwise along the way.

At the same time, they battle the hypocrisy of the Church that asked
them to 'freshen up' the text, but are unprepared for a questioning,
complex work of art.

Sometimes the symbolic references to the Bible are too literal and
heavy handed. And some of the satire of Montreal's shallow bourgeois
art lovers and sell-out advertisers is way too on the nose. But there's
something powerful in the film's moments of ambiguity and in the
fragile humanity of it's characters.

And the actual passion play itself - full of doubt and using
archaeological history to question more literal, fundamentalist
interpretations of the Bible is both intellectually fascinating and
moving.

Flawed enough that it possibly deserves a lower rating, but it haunts
me.
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on 18 March 2005
As others have said, this is a film that shows Jesus as one of the downtrodden. In this case, French-Canadians in the modern world. The Devil in a skyscraper seemed totally at home, and other scenes are also done cleverly.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 23 March 2011
A group of young actors put on an updated, radical version of the
passion play, and find new meanings in their lives, spiritual and
otherwise along the way.

At the same time, they battling the hypocrisy of the Church that asked
them to 'freshen up' the text, but are unprepared for a questioning,
complex work of art.

Sometimes the symbolic references to the Bible are too literal and
heavy handed. And some of the satire of Montreal's shallow bourgeois
art lovers and sell-out advertisers is way too on the nose. But there's
something powerful in the film's moments of ambiguity and in the
fragile humanity of it's characters.

And the actual passion play itself - full of doubt and using
archaeological history to question more literal, fundamentalist
interpretations of the Bible is both intellectually fascinating and
moving.

Flawed enough that it possibly deserves a lower rating, but it haunts
me.

This US release is full-frame, not wide screen, which drives me crazy.
If you have a region 2 or region free player (which you should, given that
this is Amazon.uk ) there is a UK wide-screen region 2 version that looks
quite good.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 8 October 2015
This 1989 drama centres on Daniel [Lothaire Bluteau] an actor, who has been hired by the priest at a Roman Catholic site of pilgrimage, to update and present a Passion play in its gardens. He soon assembles a group of actors and stages the play, but will their lives ever be the same again as each confronts their own doubts and flaws?
The film is a brilliant reworking of the life of Jesus into the modern era as well as being highlighted in the play itself. The parallels are obvious and often trite, but that’s much of it’s charm, that basic simplicity overshadowed by an over complex world.
The film is in Quebecois being subtitled in English, although some small scenes are in full English. There is some moderate male nudity, swearing and violent behaviour and will not sit well with many religious ideologies, thus meriting an unfortunate 18 rating. This is well filmed and acted making it an easy ***** for those looking for a different view.
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on 19 March 2001
An emotional, and often hilarious story of contemporary hypocrisy, as experienced by a group of actors led by Daniel (Lothaire Bluteau). The group are commissioned to stage a revitalised version of the Passion Play performed on top of Mount Royale, against the backdrop of the Montreal cityscape.
Daniel assembles his cast in the most unlikeliest of places: a TV commercial actress, a voiceover actor who specialises in porn films, and so on. Daniel's agent/solicitor would rather he abandon his ideals and appear in a Hollywood movie, a TV commercial or on a billboard advertising cologne. The church, who originally sponsored the play, suddenly objects to Daniel's radical interpretation of St Mark's Gospel. However the critics and audiences vote with the actors and a storm of controversy erupts. Denys Arcand, the director plays the role of a judge.
Jesus of Montreal is a marvellous film and a very rare demonstration of the incredible potential of cinema. It has been described as bridging the gap between art house and popular film-making, and it is true to say that it is a very accessible, entertaining and thought provoking film. But it also has a very complex cinematic structure using a succession of Brechtian vignettes and a tour de force play-within-a-film device, and to some critics it has proven very difficult to pin down. It must also be made clear that despite the title it is not primarily a religious film (although it has been misinterpreted as such) except perhaps in the sense of the importance of representative forms to the structure of religion. In essence it concerns the relationships between art, politics and censorship and their effects upon a particular group or microcosm within a wider macrocosm - the group being a familiar pre-occupation in Arcand's work. The director skilfully sets up sophisticated binary oppositions between Daniel's characterisation of Jesus and the cityscape of Montreal; the artistic circle and corporate media machine; and the suffering city and commercial city. Most striking of Arcand's films in general is the warmth of the characterisations - the avoidance of any trace of myopic moral judgement on his part.
But if there is a defining moment it has to be when the Haitian woman declares Daniel as 'Jesus' - this violently ruptures the diegesis of both the play-within-film and the representative allegory - demonstrating unequivocally the power of art as allegorical seduction, and, most importantly, how that power can be instantaneously reversed. Loiselle and McIlroy in their highly recommended book on Arcand have described the film as a 'double-twist allegory' about the redemptive powers of art, which is in my view only partially sustainable. A perhaps more convincing reasoning is hinted at in this book when an essay by Martin Lefebvre is cited which links ideas of 'doubling' and 'mise-en-abyme' with the film; also of great interest here is Jean Baudrillard's 'Symbolic Exchange and Death' (1976 tr 1993) which explores eloquently the theories surrounding 'binary oppositions' and 'doubling'.
I cannot recommend this film highly enough. A thorough masterpiece, essential for anyone who has an interest in cinema, the representative arts or theology; others should also be rewardingly amused.
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