Maverick helmer Abel Ferrara’s Catholic angstfest “Mary” met with considerable disbelief after its first Venice screening, but the Ferrara faithful will recognize a partial return to form after several disappointments. Not quite a standout like “Bad Lieutenant,” but hardly a dud like “New Rose Hotel,” “Mary” reps a sincere grapple with faith and redemption in cynical times. Tricky construction, nesting a film within the film, hits plenty of duff notes. But passionate turns from Forest Whitaker and Juliette Binoche could be the touch of grace needed to get pic a distribution blessing after ancillary-only releases for the last few Ferrara pics.
Cocky American film director Tony Childress (Matthew Modine, amusingly channeling Ferrara’s persona) finishes helming a revisionist biblical drama shot in Italy called “This Is My Blood,” that stars him as Jesus and major Euro star Marie Palesi (Binoche) as Mary Magdalene. Portions show Mary not as a prostitute but rather a full fledged disciple locked in a power struggle with fellow-disciple Peter, and feature an intense perf by Binoche/Marie.
Having gone deep into the role, Marie has had some kind of spiritual epiphany. When it’s time to strike the set, she refuses to go home and sets out for Jerusalem.
A year later in Gotham, Ted Younger (Whitaker) hosts a slightly implausible weeklong, primetime nightly network TV special examining the historical truth about Jesus. Various experts (played by real-life scholars such as Jean-Yves Leloup, Amos Luzzatto and Elaine Pagels) and clergy discuss alternative gospels or issues in theology on the show.
Younger goes to see a press screening of “This Is My Blood” introduced by Childress. Younger asks Childress to appear on his show to discuss the film, which looks set to reap similar controversy to Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ.” Younger would also like to book Marie on the show, but Childress claims not to know where to find her. . . .
Sounds interesting, to say the least.