Jesus De Montreal

Jesus De Montreal

What made Jesus De Montreal successful despite a few problems that irked me: hollow and over the top caricatures representative of some vapid “modern” world (an inherently dishonest critique because of its simplistic representation of modern times and people), use of cheap and out-of-place 80’s rock riffs during scene transitions (tonal incongruities), and a rather bland filmmaking style (one of the few imaginative scenes/shots — “end of the universe” was derivative: Ray’s Rebel Without a Cause (I also admired the effective dramatics of the train passing by during Daniel’s collapse, and also, the closing shot.) was the strength of the concept—the staging of a modernized Passion play based on newly discovered information about Jesus’s life—and the political ramifications and difficulties such a production would face.

That conceit and the inevitable ensuing dramatics alone could have carried the film, but in addition to the Church’s reaction writer/director Denys Arcade also layered the film with a critique of a modern, consumerist, image obsessed society. By also positing in the film an argument against Jesus as a product, a carefully crafted, and heavily protected image. One protected by the Church higher-up’s (whom we never see) those that—to protect their product— demand modification, then outright cancellation of the play. This aspect of the film is told subtlety, and only alluded to briefly (its relation to Jesus, at least); the importance of image and its relevance to the Christ narrative is in its parallels to Daniel’s experience and his incompatibility with the modern world. The church has resigned itself to offering “happiness”—to give the miserable something to soothe the suffering. Actual meaning—a deep and true meaning—is not the objective. It’s about the selling of the product: Jesus as a source of salvation, an abstraction, not as a man. Arcade’s film encourages us to consider how it parallels modern advertising: drink the beer, get the beautiful girl— believe in Jesus, get eternal salvation. They both distort the truth to manufacture a desire that supposedly only their product satisfies. And any individual or idea that challenges that assertion (humanizes Jesus) is bad for business— and the Catholic Church is big business. And as Father Lecierc says in the film—“Institutions live longer than men”— and this institution: the Catholic Church, has Jesus trademarked.

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2 Responses to “Jesus De Montreal”

  1.   lisadiodato Says:

    I agree with your comments on making the movie more modern by including “getting the beer and the beautiful girl”. We truly are an image obsessed society and i feel this movie works to point that out and confirm it. This whole “selling the product” commentary is pretty disturbing, but that is exactly the idea the film is portraying. I agree that Jesus has been trademarked here. I didn’t like this film because it, I believe, pointed out the truth a bit too much. It made all of the accusations and problems within the Catholic church a bit too predominant. In a modern world, the Catholic church seems to be losing it’s merit, without movies such as this one. It is more difficult today to have faith than in any other time period and this movie points out all of the reasons why. It also ends on a note of dread, with the opera singers use their God given talent to beg for change in the subway. Where is God in this scene?

  2.   David Richter Says:

    One bit of satire that (in this year of Obamacare) I noticed for the first time was that the hospital to which Daniel is taken after the violent accident seems to be too busy and bureaucratic to notice that he has a traumatic injury that is going to be fatal if it isn’t dealt with soon. Seems like a comment on medical care in Canada and one at odds with the opinion of it that the friends of mine who live in Toronto and Kingston share. I think that Denys Arcand’s mother died around the time he was making the film, and his grim portrait of Canadian medicine may come from bitter experience.

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