Monday, May 11, 2009

The Film of Martin Scorsese Part XVIV: Location Production Footage: The Last Temptation of Christ

Location Production Footage: The Last Temptation of Christ (1988) ***
Directed By:
Martin Scorsese.
Featuring: Willem Dafoe, Harvey Keitel, Martin Scorsese.

The Location Production Footage for The Last Temptation Christ is almost more of a video diary by Martin Scorsese, shot on video during the Morocco filming of his 1988 masterpiece. Running only 15 minutes long, it is fascinating for anyone who loves Scorsese, and would like to see how he works. It is not a thorough making of documentary that takes us from beginning to end, but rather a brief glimpse into what the set was like. If the IMDB didn’t list it as one of Scorsese’s “director” credits, then I probably would not have included it in this series. But it’s interesting nonetheless for Scorsese complete-ists like me.

Scorsese takes his camera to the set, and allows us to see what he sees, both before filming begins, and during the filming itself. It seems odd that a movie as serious as this would have such a relaxed set, but that appears to be the case. During the footage, we see Scorsese joke around with Andre Gregory, who played John the Baptist, and Harvey Keitel (who asks Scorsese to get him a cup of coffee). Even Willem Dafoe seems completely relaxed, even when Scorsese interviews him just as he has been let off the cross during the crucifixion sequence. Scorsese does have a reputation after all of being an actors’ director, and from what we see the reputation is true. Scorsese is relaxed with them, and lets them take their time and not pressure them. Perhaps that’s why he always gets such great performances out of them – they trust him and are willing to do anything for him.

Scorsese himself seems, in contrast, to be slightly stressed. On the set, he is all business, except when he takes a few minutes out to joke around with the cast or crew, but in a few of the private sequences in the movie – where it is just Scorsese and his camera – he admits that they are up against a wall. Lazarus being raised from the dead, and the John the Baptist sequence took longer than anticipated to shoot, so “as always” according to Scorsese, they have to work fast. They need to get the final shots of Jesus on the cross during the very last minutes of daylight on the very last day of shooting.

It seems unfair to be to give this a star rating, because it is not really a proper movie, but for the sake of consistency, I did anyway. The three star rating is applicable to people like me – who are fascinated by Scorsese and want to see him work. For others, who simply want to see the finished product, and doesn’t really care about the process, the film will be far less interesting. I’m pretty sure you know which group you fall into.

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