1. Sign-up to become a member, and most of the ads you see will disappear. It only takes 30 seconds to sign up, so join the discussion today!
    Dismiss Notice

Blu-ray Review The Last Temptation of Christ Blu-ray Review

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Matt Hough, Mar 6, 2012.

  1. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Director
    Reviewer

    Joined:
    Apr 24, 2006
    Messages:
    21,386
    Likes Received:
    10,902
    Trophy Points:
    9,110
    Location:
    Charlotte, NC
    Real Name:
    Matt Hough
    XenForo Template

    The first time I saw Martin Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ, I had to cross a picket line to do it. Angry fundamentalists had installed a protest group outside the theater where it was playing, and as I walked to the box office, I was spat at, cursed, and called offensive names. After watching one of the most reverential and adult handlings of the story of Christ that I had even seen, I was eager to go outside and tell the protesters the joyful and fulfilling experience they were missing. Alas, they had left, and I never got the opportunity to share my feelings about it. Until now.



    The Last Temptation of Christ (Blu-ray)
    Directed by Martin Scorsese

    Studio: Criterion
    Year: 1988
    Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1   1080p   AVC codec  
    Running Time: 163 minutes
    Rating: R
    Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English
    Subtitles: SDH

    Region: A
    MSRP: $ 39.99


    Release Date: March 13, 2012

    Review Date: March 6, 2012




    The Film

    4.5/5


    Jesus of Nazareth (Willem Dafoe) is a simple carpenter making crosses for the Romans and struggling daily with a growing sense inside him (manifested in migraine headaches and voices) that he is special and is bound for a greater purpose. Returning from a ten day sojourn in the desert where he comes face-to-face with Satan and has his life’s function revealed to him, Jesus is convinced he’s the Son of God and becomes a warrior for love and truth. With his best friend Judas (Harvey Keitel) at his side along with other devoted followers of both sexes, Jesus fulfills his destiny but not before Satan makes one final attempt to deflect Jesus from his chosen path.


    Though the film’s textural prologue (taken from the original book by Nikos Kazantzakis) makes it clear the film is a work of fiction not based on gospels but instead catapulting  historical figures into the eternal struggles between flesh and spirit, many of the familiar tenants of Christ’s story are present and accounted for: making the blind see, turning water to wine, raising Lazarus from the dead, driving the money changers from the temple, the triumphant procession into Jerusalem, the Last Supper, and His capture in the garden along with a graphic (but not excruciatingly so) depiction of the crucifixion. Scorsese handles all of these events not with synthetic pious reverence but with living, breathing vitality giving the movie a much more modernized feel and tone than is present in most of the previous films about the Son of God. And with the title character, he’s given us a Jesus that’s realistically human (the side of his persona that other films often neglect) struggling to understand his place, capable of weakness and doubt. This carries right through to the film’s most controversial element: the temptation of Jesus while on the cross to deny his mission on Earth and instead succumb to the lure of the trappings of man: home, carnal love, and family. Handled with sensitive delicacy but unabashed directness, the scenes aren’t the least bit blasphemous but rather an alternative that, in the end, Jesus rejects. Those critical of the notions of Christ’s temptations have missed the point: as part of the world he walks and will one day reign over, there is nothing unpleasant or sinister about His consideration of these things for Himself. The fact that He ultimately finds his purpose to be a higher and nobler one should elevate the film’s achievement and not make it a cause for scorn or dismissal.


    Blond and blue-eyed though he may be, Willem Dafoe makes a completely convincing Christ: troubled, tormented, driven but also loving, faithful, and at last peacefully resigned to His destiny. Judas’ love-hate relationship with Jesus finds kinetic forcefulness in the hands of Harvey Keitel who imbues his character with a vigor and dynamism that is a startling contrast to Dafoe’s performance. Barbara Hershey has soulful gusto as the tainted Mary Magdalene while Andre Gregory makes a fiery, furious John the Baptist. David Bowie has an astonishing cameo as a sedate, reasonable Pontius Pilate that’s tremendously effective, and Harry Dean Stanton as Saul/Paul likewise impresses with his serious intensity.



    Video Quality

    4.5/5


    The transfer has been framed at its theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and is presented in 1080p using the AVC codec. It’s an exceptionally clean transfer, and for the most part its sharpness is exemplary. Occasionally contrast seems to waver in consistency resulting in images with a slightly digital or milky appearance. Color is nicely rendered and usually consistent though flesh tones can sometimes be a tad rosy or pink. Black levels are usually quite good. The film has been divided into 29 chapters.



    Audio Quality

    4.5/5


    The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix finds its most expressive use in Peter Gabriel’s fascinatingly unique music score. Spread through the entire soundfield, the music resonates with heft and effectiveness. Dialogue is mostly well recorded (there are a few garbled lines here and there) and has been placed in the center channel. Though ambient effects aren’t always consistently applied to the surround channels, when the sound mixers decide to go full out as in the crucifixion sequence, the spread is most impressive and at one point even reaches system-threatening levels of sound.



    Special Features

    3.5/5


    The audio commentary has been patched together from comments by director Martin Scorsese, star Willem Dafoe, and writers Jay Cocks and Paul Schrader. It’s an illuminating commentary giving plenty of background information and anecdotes on the making of the movie and reactions to its critical and public reception. A must listen.


    There is a step through photo gallery of costume sketches and photographs of the actors in their costumes.


    Another step through photo gallery of production shots and publicity stills is provided.


    “On Location in Morocco” is a 15 ¾-minute behind-the-scenes VHS diary of director Martin Scorsese shooting for a two week period during November 1987. It’s presented in 1080i.


    An interview with composer Peter Gabriel includes a text page introduction, the 12-minute 1080i interview in which the musician talks about his approach to the material, and a step through photo gallery showing unusual instruments used to create the sound for the music and more shots of the production team back home.


    An enclosed folded pamphlet offers the cast and crew lists, an interesting essay on the film and its reception by film critic David Ehrenstein, and a couple of color stills.


    The Criterion Blu-rays include a maneuvering tool called “Timeline” which can be pulled up from the menu or by pushing the red button on the remote. It shows you your progress on the disc, the title of the chapter you’re now in, and index markers for the commentary that goes along with the film, all of which can be switched on the fly. Additionally, two other buttons on the remote can place or remove bookmarks if you decide to stop viewing before reaching the end of the film or want to mark specific places for later reference.



    In Conclusion

    4.5/5 (not an average)


    Bold but bracingly spiritual and powerfully thoughtful, Martin Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ is a film that people of faith can embrace without reservation. With a pristine picture and sound superior to many theatrical presentations, this Criterion Blu-ray is a sterling effort. Highly recommended!




    Matt Hough

    Charlotte, NC

     
  2. Jefferson Morris

    Jefferson Morris Supporting Actor

    Joined:
    Jun 20, 2000
    Messages:
    826
    Likes Received:
    5
    Trophy Points:
    0
    A great film. Strong case to upgrade to the blu (I have the Criterion DVD).
     
  3. 24fpssean

    24fpssean Stunt Coordinator

    Joined:
    Dec 7, 2009
    Messages:
    225
    Likes Received:
    2
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Real Name:
    Sean
    Nice review, Matt, I am eagerly awaiting my order to arrive next Tuesday!
    I'm curious about the end title sequence, though: When Jesus gives up the ghost and the film is "zapped" from the screen by the power of God, the end titles are bright white projected onto a simulated off white cinema screen. When I saw that in 1988 during its first theatrical run I remember thinking, "How the hell are they going to handle THAT in home video??" And I was right, all home video versions of the film have darkened the white cinema screen to a tawny gold so as to make the white end credits more visible. But I was wondering if the film being released in HD changed that, if they were able to reproduce that novel ending? It's more effective if the credits are shown on a blank cinema screen as originally intended rather than a sickly yellow background.
     
  4. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Director
    Reviewer

    Joined:
    Apr 24, 2006
    Messages:
    21,386
    Likes Received:
    10,902
    Trophy Points:
    9,110
    Location:
    Charlotte, NC
    Real Name:
    Matt Hough
    Sorry, but that has not been changed. It's still an orangy background.
     
  5. owen35

    owen35 Stunt Coordinator

    Joined:
    Oct 14, 2008
    Messages:
    217
    Likes Received:
    92
    Trophy Points:
    110
    Real Name:
    Steve
    Nice review and I'm excited to upgrade to BR in my collection.
    I also vividly recalling the protesters outside who were telling me I was going to hell, etc.. I walked out having the exact same response as you--"You don't know what you are talking about. This is a very moving, spiritual film." But ignorance ruled the day.
     
  6. Coressel

    Coressel Supporting Actor

    Joined:
    May 26, 1999
    Messages:
    699
    Likes Received:
    45
    Trophy Points:
    610
    Are all of the extras carried over from the DVD to the Blu Ray, and are there any other goodies?
     
  7. 24fpssean

    24fpssean Stunt Coordinator

    Joined:
    Dec 7, 2009
    Messages:
    225
    Likes Received:
    2
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Real Name:
    Sean
    That's too bad. Well, it's a difficult thing for even HD home video to reproduce. The effect in the cinema is really wonderful, leaving the viewer feeling as if what happened after Jesus' death was too much for mere film and therefore it was burned off of the screen. I remember everyone sitting there staring at the blank white screen and when the credits began popping on and off, there was this "cool!" moment rippling through the audience. I would have left it a blank white screen for home video and would have perhaps altered the end titles themselves, make them darker or another color, to keep the effect.
    Still, I can't wait to get my disc!
     
  8. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Director
    Reviewer

    Joined:
    Apr 24, 2006
    Messages:
    21,386
    Likes Received:
    10,902
    Trophy Points:
    9,110
    Location:
    Charlotte, NC
    Real Name:
    Matt Hough
    They are the same extras as before with no new additions (though the essay in the booklet has een updated to include a reference to The Passion of the Christ).
     
  9. Bryan Tuck

    Bryan Tuck Screenwriter

    Joined:
    Jan 16, 2002
    Messages:
    1,783
    Likes Received:
    311
    Trophy Points:
    1,610
    Real Name:
    Bryan Tuck
    Thanks for the review, Matt! This is indeed one of the best and most genuinely spiritual movies about Jesus ever made.
    It's interesting that Universal has also finally released the film themselves on DVD (part of their 100th anniversary line). Obviously, the Criterion BD is the one to get for fans, but I guess it's good that the movie itself will finally be more widely available on DVD as a less-expensive alternative.
     
  10. Colin Jacobson

    Colin Jacobson Lead Actor

    Joined:
    Apr 19, 2000
    Messages:
    9,330
    Likes Received:
    3,180
    Trophy Points:
    9,110
    Not entirely correct that they're the same - the stillframe galleries have been abbreviated. They're much shorter on the Blu-ray...
     
  11. Radioman970

    Radioman970 Lead Actor

    Joined:
    Jul 22, 2006
    Messages:
    7,815
    Likes Received:
    1,600
    Trophy Points:
    9,110
    Location:
    Could be anywhere
    Real Name:
    James Perry
    My Blu copy of Passion is still wrapped in plastic. Good excuse to watch it then pick this one up and leave it wrapped in plastic for 2 years too. :P
     
  12. DaveF

    DaveF Moderator
    Moderator

    Joined:
    Mar 4, 2001
    Messages:
    22,436
    Likes Received:
    3,812
    Trophy Points:
    9,110
    Location:
    Catfisch Cinema
    Real Name:
    Dave
    I was in high school when this came out, and while aware of the controversy, had no interest in the movie at the time.

    Jump forward a decade and I watched in DVD and was very impressed. At the time, friends and I would do little movie discussion groups (watch a movie, discuss it). In in 1998, it got divided reviews. (And I've found my dad has no tolerance for a Bronx-y accented Jesus :) )

    I think I might have the DVD on my collection; I should give it a re-watch. And also listen to the soundtrack again, which is marvelous.
     
  13. Guest

    This is only one of a small handful of films about Christ that I don't own, so I pre-ordered it. The only others I don't have are The Gospel According to St. Matthew and the original The King of Kings (hoping for a blu-ray of this one.)
     
  14. 24fpssean

    24fpssean Stunt Coordinator

    Joined:
    Dec 7, 2009
    Messages:
    225
    Likes Received:
    2
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Real Name:
    Sean
    Just watched my BD and thought it looked and sounded very nice. I saw the film in 1988 (in fact I worked at Cineplex Odeon Universal during the 125,000+ protest against the film!) and I am very sorry that the integrity of the original end credits was not maintained. As I stated above, the film is "burned" off of the screen at the end by the power of God and we, the audience, are left watching a blank white movie screen on which the bright white end credits pop. For home video, including this Blu-ray, that has been darkened to a tawny gold, I'm assuming so the titles can be read. But when the film is first burned off the screen, leaving the screen blank white, just before they (Criterion? Marty? Ballhaus?) darken it, I paused the image and thought well maybe it is too difficult for even HD home video to reproduce the original white on white end titles. But then I noticed that the "pause" symbol in the lower left of my screen was pure white and showed up clearly against the off-white of the cinema screen. Very unfortunate, for the experience is altered slightly and not what was originally in theaters. And Marty, who is all about preserving a film's integrity, approved this? That surprises me.
    Regardless, it's a wonderful film and I am glad I got to see it on its first run ON FILM and, even though it was a bit scary, to have been working that day when thousands of protesters swarmed the hill at Universal Studios, as if it were Golgotha.
     
  15. MattAlbie60

    MattAlbie60 I Work for Mr. E. H. Harriman of the Union Pacific

    Joined:
    Oct 21, 2010
    Messages:
    561
    Likes Received:
    11
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Location:
    Baltimore, Maryland
    Real Name:
    Stephen Lilley
    It's at Walmart, too, which blew my mind: http://www.walmart.com/ip/The-Last-Temptation-Of-Christ-Widescreen/19590085
     
  16. WinstonCely

    WinstonCely Stunt Coordinator

    Joined:
    May 17, 2010
    Messages:
    248
    Likes Received:
    1
    Trophy Points:
    110
    Real Name:
    Winston Cely
  17. owen35

    owen35 Stunt Coordinator

    Joined:
    Oct 14, 2008
    Messages:
    217
    Likes Received:
    92
    Trophy Points:
    110
    Real Name:
    Steve
    Has anyone confirmed if the Universal transfer is the same as the Criterion? I saw this double release on another website and was curious if there is a duplication of transfers. While I love the Criterion extras, I already have them on DVD and, if you can believe, laserdisc, so saving a few bucks by buying the cheaper Universal release would be great.
     
  18. Bryan Tuck

    Bryan Tuck Screenwriter

    Joined:
    Jan 16, 2002
    Messages:
    1,783
    Likes Received:
    311
    Trophy Points:
    1,610
    Real Name:
    Bryan Tuck
    The Universal release is DVD-only. I guess it's possible that they used the 12-year-old Criterion DVD transfer (which was pretty good by 2000 standards), but I'd hope that they made a new one. As far as I know, the only Blu-ray release is from Criterion.
     
  19. 24fpssean

    24fpssean Stunt Coordinator

    Joined:
    Dec 7, 2009
    Messages:
    225
    Likes Received:
    2
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Real Name:
    Sean
    All right, here we go again. I've finally had a chance to watch the entire film on Blu-ray (not just the end title sequence to prove my theory that the end titles had been darkened again, see above) and this is a God awful disc.
    Now those of you familiar with my tirades against Criterion's wretched release of Howards End on BD, which was and still is an unwatchable storm of digital gnats, will probably pass this comment off as another raving fit from an unforgiving film fanatic, but seriously - how on earth anyone can think that the vivid banding around Satan's little pillar of fire 59 minutes into this Last Temptation disc is watchable and acceptable is beyond reason. The macro-blocking therein is also jaw-dropping.
    I am assuming, since the end titles are indeed the same tawny gold as in Criterion's DVD release 12 years ago rather than the white on white they were theatrically, that once again they have used an ancient HD master. And yes, in the world of HD, twelve years is ancient. Three years is ancient.
    Several other reviewers - independent of this site, thank god - have noticed the same wretched blocking and banding, so I am not alone. I will take this disc into work and inspect it on our professional equipment to see if this Blu-ray is system sensitive, as most here will no doubt helpfully suggest.
    From FilmJunk:
    " I will say though, there’s one moment in the film that really did not translate well digitally. It’s the scene in which Jesus draws a circle around himself and is then visited by a snake, lion, and flame in the night. This sequence is surprisingly problematic as there’s a noticeable (yet tiny) amount of macroblocking in the night sky. It also seems as though some DNR has been applied to control some of the grain in the sequence. Most noticeable however, is some extreme banding during the moment in which Jesus is visited by a talking flame. I was actually surprised by how bad this moment looked."
    From Blu-ray Definition:
    "Mostly, however, the biggest issue is with the dark scenes where noise, grain, and inconsistent black levels become apparent. The first confrontation between Judas and Jesus in the desert, for instance, where Judas tells Jesus he was sent to kill him, shows an odd light vertical “strip,” slightly paler than the rest of the dark backdrop down the right side of the frame. The worst offense comes when Jesus goes off into the desert to wait for God to speak to him. The dark backdrop becomes very noisy and inconsistent, showing some splotches and low-level artifacting."
    Anyway, not that any of this will matter, none of you will see the blocking or banding nor will it matter if you do. But I do find it significant that out of all the Blu-rays I own, Last Temptation and Howards End are unwatchable. Both used old masters for their sources. And both were Criterion.
     
  20. 24fpssean

    24fpssean Stunt Coordinator

    Joined:
    Dec 7, 2009
    Messages:
    225
    Likes Received:
    2
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Real Name:
    Sean
    Tried the disc on a friend's system (different equipment than mine) and the results were the same. His jaw dropped at what he saw, the blocking and banding, and he despaired that he had planned to buy Last Temptation but now couldn't.
    For the record, just watching the Monty Python and the Holy Grail BD, I see that Sony was able to sustain the blank white cinema screen when the film breaks at the end... so what's wrong with Universal/Criterion that they couldn't do a new scan and get it right?
     

Share This Page