View from the choir

I am a Catholic layperson and Secular Franciscan with a sense of humor. After years in the back pew watching, I have moved into the choir. It's nice to see faces instead of the backs of heads. But I still maintain God has a sense of humor - and that we are created in God's image.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Here's looking at you, II

An update.

As I noted in my May 31 posting, Time’s list of the “top 100 movies of all time” inspired me to think of my own list of the top religious movies of all time.

Time’s list included only one that met my criteria for a religious movie - God, spirituality or faith playing a prominent role in the plot or the life of at least one major character - It’s a Wonderful Life.

But the list included two works often cited on other lists of religious/spiritual movies: Ikiru, and The Decalogue.

I also mentioned that there were other religious movies cited on other lists, including a 1928 silent French film, The Passion of Joan of Arc.

I have now seen Ikiru and The Passion of Joan of Arc.

Ikiru is Japanese film about a city hall bureaucrat who discovers he is dying of cancer. In reality, he has been basically dead as a person for 30 years. In his final days, he tries to find meaning for his life. He ultimately does so by forcing the city bureaucracy to move and build a playground in a slum.

It is a great movie. With its sentimentality and social satire, it reminds me a bit of Frank Capra films of the 1930s, especially You Can’t Take It With You. I can’t imagine Capra ever allowing his main character to die long before the movie ends, however. (The last part of the movie has echoes of Citizen Kane.)

And it’s definitely a spiritual film. But as far as religious films go, it fits under my category of movies that show a character making a moral choice. It does not meet the criteria for my list of top religious movies.

The Passion of Joan of Arc, however, clearly fits my definition of a religious movie – and it is a great film.

The performances were excellent. The actress who plays Joan is riveting.

The film also boasts some innovative film techniques. The use of quick cutting was remarkable, as was the use of unusual camera angles.

But what stood out was the use of extreme close-ups focusing on the characters’ faces. It was powerful.

We see the torment and confusion of Joan as she is on trial and faces death.

We see the cruelty of her interrogators.

I kept wonder in what circle of hell Date would place them.

It easily makes my list of top 20 religious films.

I just have to figure out who to bump.

I recommend both movies.

As for me: I think there’s more popcorn in my future.


Blogger Talmida said...

Have you seen The Messenger? Luc Besson takes a shot at the Joan of Arc story - I liked Milla Jovovich as Jeanne D'Arc, but found it pretty hard to keep a straight face as John Malkovich hammed it up as the Dauphin.

9:19 PM  
Blogger Lee Strong said...

I heard of it, but read some poor reviews. Plus, I try to avoid John Malkovich.
Milla is interesting though. Did you ever see "The Fifth Element"? Maybe I will check it out.

7:23 PM  

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