• Bible Films Blog

    Looking at film interpretations of the stories in the Bible - past, present and future, as well as preparation for a future work on Straub/Huillet's Moses und Aron and a few bits and pieces on biblical studies.

    Matt Page


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    Tuesday, October 05, 2010

    The Quest for the Historical Curtis

    I meant to post this on Friday, but time rather ran away with me.

    As you'll no doubt be aware by now, Tony Curtis died last week, and has been much mourned. Whilst I must admit to seeing fewer of his films than perhaps I should have, it was sad news. Precious few movie stars of the 50s and 60s survive him, and I doubt we'll see their like again.

    Last week was another major landmark for another North American. My good friend, and fellow Bible film geek, Peter Chattaway turned 40, and instead of spending the day lamenting being over the hill, his sharp-as-ever mind was beavering away making obscure connections that few of us would ever uncover otherwise. And given the passing of Antoninus but two days before, it was only natural that Peter's superpowers would hone in on Tony Curtis.

    So in his 40th birthday post he compares Two versions of Curtis' anecdote about growing up, and compares it to different versions of the same story in the different gospels. I'll leave him to take it from there. Tony Curtis to John Dominic Crossan in one easy step.

    So rest in peace Tony Curtis, and here's wishing a belated happy birthday to Peter. Chewing over the minutiae of Bible films wouldn't be the same without out him.


    • At 9:35 am, October 07, 2010, Blogger Patrick said…

      Great job on spotting the similiarity between Matthew and The Passion! That's actually something that I've also noticed: the crucifixion scene is quite filled with some similarities between other Jesus films (the other I can name is when Jesus is tied to His cross...I can't help but notice Mel's execution of it is similar to the equivalent scene in the 1979 Jesus film).

      That being mentioned, yes, one of the flaws in this film is that it seems to play into the popular misconception among some Christians that 'the Pharisees put Jesus to death'. In fact, while the Gospels do record that they plotted to kill Jesus, the Pharisees do not actually appear in the Passion Narrative as major players save for two small references, each in Matthew (27:62) and John (18:3), where they seem to only have bit roles. It's always "the chief priests and the scribes and the elders".

      Also, in Greek, the controversial passage is just "His blood on us and on our children." There is no verb in the original; hence, some argue that inserting 'let' and 'be' here actually has no syntactic justification. The statement is thus, rather than being a (bloodthirsty) wish, is more a sort of statement of acceptance of responsibility by the 'crowd' ("X's blood on Y" is a common Semitic expression signifying Y's taking of the responsibility for X's death; cf. Leviticus 20:9, 11-13; Joshua 2:19; 2 Samuel 1:16; Ezekiel 18:13; 33:4-6; Matthew 23:35-36; Acts 5:28; 18:6).

      Final comment I'd like to make. I find it really interesting that this, and Pasolini's film, are the only two films which has a raw, wordless scream as Jesus' final words, instead of co-opting the more restrained statements of Luke or John.

    • At 6:51 pm, October 18, 2010, Anonymous marc said…

      speaking of tony, the bible, and minutiae: one of my favorite cameos is the one he did in "Rosemary's Baby" when he gets 3 lines or so on a telephone with Mia Farrow (he does not actually appear in the film)


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