Guest / Limited Access /
Last Temptation Turns Twenty-Five
Universal Pictures

"I've always wanted to do films of the spirit, spiritual films, but religion gets in the way."
—Martin Scorsese

There are (at least) two competing stories that get told about The Last Temptation of Christ's tortured path to the screen twenty-five years ago. The first one, all but taken for granted in Hollywood, is that Martin Scorsese is a sincere seeker who was temporarily thwarted by institutional religious bigotry. But he doggedly persisted against all odds to make a great work of art.

The second story is taken as the obvious but suppressed truth by those who tell it. They maintain that a secular entertainment community deliberately provoked a controversy to help rally support for a troubled, inferior film.

Whichever version you accept (or remember), The Last Temptation marked a tipping point in the American "culture wars." There had been other films, and have been since, that generated protest, disdain, or both. Michael Haneke's Amour, for instance, recently drew fire for (its detractors argue) promoting the culture of death. But it also garnered praise outside of religious circles, not to mention a Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival.

Last Temptation wasn't simply criticized: it helped establish the battle lines. It is the prime example in the book by Michael Medved that gave this particular battlefield a name: Hollywood vs. America.

And at least once, the battle was not just metaphorical. An attack at a theater showing the film in Paris left at least one viewer burned and several others injured. The venue had to close for three years to be remodeled.

It's fascinating to listen to the commentary track on the film's Criterion Collection DVD, released ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Support Christian thought journalism. Donate to our nonprofit ministry today.
Tags:
Read These NextSee Our Latest
Current IssueWhen Christmas Meets the ‘Umbrage Industry’
Subscriber Access Only
When Christmas Meets the ‘Umbrage Industry’
If history is any guide, there’s no escaping the hostilities that erupt every December.
RecommendedThe Broken Hands of Doctor Strange
The Broken Hands of Doctor Strange
What Marvel’s latest hero movie teaches us about engaging suffering.
TrendingWhy Do We Have Christmas Trees?
Why Do We Have Christmas Trees?
The history behind evergreens, ornaments, and holiday gift giving.
Editor's PickFairness for All: Evangelicals Explore Truce on LGBT and Religious Rights
Fairness for All: Evangelicals Explore Truce on LGBT and Religious Rights
It worked in Utah. But national effort by the CCCU and NAE will be more complicated.
Christianity Today
Last Temptation Turns Twenty-Five
hide thisAccess The Archives

In the Archives

August 2013

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.