Mary Magdalene (Garth Davis, 2018)

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Lemmy Caution
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Mary Magdalene (Garth Davis, 2018)

#1 Post by Lemmy Caution » Mon Jul 16, 2018 12:49 pm

Mary Magdalene was released in March and disappeared without much comment. Interesting cast: Rooney Mara as Mary Magdalene
Joaquin Phoenix as Jesus Christ
Chiwetel Ejiofor as Peter
Tahar Rahim as Judas
Doesn't seem to have caught on with religious folks or anyone.
I guess a feminist or at least female-centered Jesus-related film was never going to find enough of an audience.

The same month Paul, Apostle of Christ came out. This seems to have been somewhat better received, but also disappeared quickly.

Has anyone here seen either film?

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domino harvey
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Re: Evangelical Cinema and Culture

#2 Post by domino harvey » Mon Jul 16, 2018 12:51 pm

Mary Magdalene is getting a UK Blu-ray release this month. It's Universal so it'll be Region free. I think it's tied up with the Weinstein mess in the states (as is the Current War)

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John Cope
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Re: Evangelical Cinema and Culture

#3 Post by John Cope » Tue Jul 17, 2018 4:57 am

Paul, Apostle of Christ is actually excellent and one of the best films of the year afaic; a real surprise but a very good one.

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Aunt Peg
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Re: Evangelical Cinema and Culture

#4 Post by Aunt Peg » Tue Jul 17, 2018 7:30 am

Lemmy Caution wrote:
Mon Jul 16, 2018 12:49 pm
Mary Magdalene was released in March and disappeared without much comment. Interesting cast: Rooney Mara as Mary Magdalene
Joaquin Phoenix as Jesus Christ
Chiwetel Ejiofor as Peter
Tahar Rahim as Judas
Doesn't seem to have caught on with religious folks or anyone.
I guess a feminist or at least female-centered Jesus-related film was never going to find enough of an audience.

The same month Paul, Apostle of Christ came out. This seems to have been somewhat better received, but also disappeared quickly.

Has anyone here seen either film?
I've seen Mary Magdalene. It's very typical of the sort of film a director makes after a huge unexpected success (Lion) and then delivers a turkey. Phoenix reduced to method mumbling and Mara with the same wide eyed stare the whole way through. I found the viewing experience endless, relentless boredom.

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domino harvey
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Re: Mary Magdalene (Garth Davis, 2018)

#5 Post by domino harvey » Wed Nov 14, 2018 10:06 pm

Still shelved in the US due to being tied up with the Weinstein Company, Garth Davis’ followup to Lion places Rooney Mara in the role of Mary Magdalene, “Apostle to the Apostles,” and, more boldly, casts Joaquin Phoenix as Jesus Christ. I have already written at some length about my problems with the revisionism and perversion of the Last Temptation of Christ here, but while I object to the changes that film makes in its representation of Jesus, I do think there is more than enough ambiguity and room for extrapolation in the Gospels to allow for more fluid takes on the son of God. I’ve seen enough films of Jesus to have a good sense where this one lies within the subgenre, and so to my eyes Davis’ film distinguishes itself from other more rote adaptations of this story in three key interpretive choices of varying success:

01 Jesus as Montgomery Clift
I believe Phoenix to be our greatest living actor, but ever since this project was announced, I wasn’t sure this was a role that would play to either his strengths or, honestly, abilities. And if you’re trying to figure out how a Joaquin Phoenix-brand Jesus of Nazareth would work, well, the answer is exactly as you’d expect: brooding, intense, and standoffish in the extreme. Little here hints at the charisma and leadership needed to be the shepherd he was. But while I don’t think this approach encompasses the totality of the figure, I also don’t reject this reading or approach wholecloth. What the film does, though I think not successfully, is transpose the darkness of his final days and the overwhelming weight of the fate he knew was about to play out, and casts his entire time from meeting Mary Magdalene onward in this emotional pallor. This is a representation choice that comes removed from the love of God and instead sees this figure from without, peeking in on a man struggling with the greatest of burdens. And indeed he surely was. But when the entirety of what we see of Jesus is informed by the end we and he know is coming, it denies an audience any peek of the joy Jesus brought and makes his abilities to lead and (more importantly) inspire as shown in the film wholly suspect. There are moments this kind of intensity works, when Davis allows us to see the subdued horror that would come from seeing a miracle— these peeks show us how a bolder film might have approached this perspective and honored this reading of Jesus by doing more with it than making Phoenix go through Method Acting 101 tricks. Jesus is anguished, we get that, but we don’t get any convincing reasons to explain it away other than what any adaptation of this material could have and has provided.

02 Judas as True Believer
Davis’ film has a lot of issues, but chief amongst them is its often choppy and confusing editing. Never is this more clear than when he steps on his biggest reveal: After Mary Magdalene joins with the Apostles, only one man warms to her immediately and shows himself to be the most Christlike. Unbelievably, Davis then buries the punchline that this man is Judas via offhand dialogue that causes us to infer which of the Apostles could possibly be Judas because Davis has done such a poor job setting these men up as in any way different from one another (and there are probably thousands of sources one could have turned to for ways to do this, I might add). The casting of Tahar Rahim, from Le passe and Un prophète, is inspired, as he is able to impart a wholesome and convincingly puppydog affection for Jesus. For much of the film Rahim’s portrayal of Judas was the only thing actually working: How better to depict the most famous betrayal in history than by making strange and unknowable its motivation? Rather than demonizing Judas outright, the film makes the incredibly dicey choice to cast him as the most faithful and fervent of Jesus’ followers. Isn’t a betrayal more harmful and more impactful coming from one who loved us best? But then the film gives into traditional narrative needs of causality and gives Judas concrete reasons for his betrayal. Gone are the silver and denials, in its place is the desperate act of a true believer, who reports his Messiah to the Romans in order to spurn on him acting and making the people of Jerusalem believe. Now this obviously is also a bold approach, and I do appreciate it, but I think the impact of his portrayal immediately weakens once he has a more knowable impetus for his actions. There’s nothing more dangerous than a zealot, sure, but surely we already knew that.

03 Mary Magdalene as Feminist Hero
Even with these changes, I struggled for most of the film to understand why it was made at all. Only near the end did it become clear that Davis sees Mary Magdalene as a kind of Wendy Davis/Elizabeth Warren precursor, standing up to a group of men and facing nothing but oppression or polite distrust. I guess technically making Chiwetel Ejiofor’s Peter a complete asshole could count as the fourth significant interpretive differentiation (though there is evidence in gnostic texts that he and Mary Magdalene did not get along), but it’s too closely tied to this one, as his purpose is to be an arrogant man locking horns with Mary Magdalene. I must admit, for a mostly milquetoast movie like this, I was stunned when it ended with Rooney Mara trying to convince a room full of men that what Jesus meant by all his teaching was proto-Socialism. Sure, we see the ol’ “Jesus was a Socialist” line dropped all the time, but Mary Magdalene’s hard left-leaning argument is so brash here that I simultaneously can not believe Davis intends for it to be taken seriously and yet I am also certain that he does! This was never going to be a movie that played to evangelicals, but how many far-leftist viewers could there possibly be that want to see a film that sincerely posits, even with these changes, that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the Bible is true, and so on? I often love movies that simultaneously alienate multiple audiences and leave no clear ideal viewer to be discerned, but here it’s just further evidence that despite the name-brand recognition of Phoenix and Mara, this is a film destined to be overlooked and/or forgotten.

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Persona
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Re: Mary Magdalene (Garth Davis, 2018)

#6 Post by Persona » Thu Nov 15, 2018 2:19 pm

I had been wondering what happened to this movie as I was somewhat looking forward to it (until it dropped off the face of the planet--I had actually assumed it had come out in limited release and no one saw it) and thank you for your very interesting breakdown.

I have issue with any sort of stance that tries to render Jesus' philosophy and teachings in modern political form, but I guess I'm okay with a film that loves and respects Jesus in such a way as to be reactionary to the political right who have misappropriated Christianity--espousing attitudes and policies that are actually the opposite of what Christ stood for.

Still, Christ was a person who operated on a level far less based on culture-context and much more on essential levels of morality, philosophy, and spirituality. I think that is part of what I appreciate about Last Temptation, even for all its flaws. On some level it realizes both the struggle and grace of Christ has existential ramifications that far exceed the ways in which humanity so consistently treats his person reductively or as a tool/symbol to some sort of dogma.

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Aunt Peg
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Re: Mary Magdalene (Garth Davis, 2018)

#7 Post by Aunt Peg » Mon Nov 26, 2018 8:50 am

For those yearning to see it and are region free the film is on blu ray in Australia: https://www.jbhifi.com.au/movies-tv-sho ... ne/649901/

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domino harvey
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Re: Mary Magdalene (Garth Davis, 2018)

#8 Post by domino harvey » Mon Nov 26, 2018 12:02 pm

The UK Blu-ray is region-free

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