Screened as part of NZIFF 2006
Tony Childress (Matthew Modine) has just directed a contentious movie starring himself as Christ and Juliette Binoche as Mary Magdalene, aka the thirteenth disciple. The actress, deeply moved, abandons movies and begins a life of simple devotion in Jerusalem. Tony, meanwhile, returns to New York to rile Orthodox Jews into opposing the film and getting himself onto TV talk shows. Forest Whitaker plays the host of an improbably weighty series on the ‘true meaning of Christ’ which is so successful that he finds himself at the crossroads, tempted by pride and Mammon. There’s such fervour to Abel Ferrara’s fast and furious ‘exposé’ of showbiz religiosity that its wild implausibility only adds to the pleasure. The man who made Bad Lieutenant storms the temple, ready to cast out all who exploit faith in God. Modine is riveting, a mind-boggling amalgam of primary target Mel Gibson and Ferrara himself. The incurably Catholic Ferrara has suffered plenty at the hands of those who broadcast their piety. If a quarter of what he throws back at them here sticks, he should be gratified.