Two completely unrelated yet strikingly similar-sounding movies — both French, both comedies, both set partly in biblical times — came to my attention recently.
First, my friend Matt Page reviewed a French film from 1982 called Deux heures moins le quart avant Jésus-Christ, which translates to A Quarter to Two Before Jesus Christ or, to keep things really simple, 1:45 BC.
Matt notes that the film was produced just three years after Monty Python’s Life of Brian, and that it may have been inspired by that film on some level.
Interestingly, one of the deleted scenes from Life of Brian includes a gag very similar to the chronometric joke in the French movie’s title: after the angels visit one group of shepherds and tell them about the birth of Jesus, someone in another group of shepherds asks, “Is it A.D. yet?” and his colleague replies, “Quarter past.”
True to the French movie’s title, Jesus himself apparently doesn’t appear in the film until the very end, if that. Matt writes of the film’s conclusion:
With everyone having made their peace the previously opposing groups all settle down to an after-gladiatorial-show party. There, among the many novelties, is a television playing a news report. And the lead story? A census in Bethlehem has led to massive overcrowding. The news item goes on to focus on a lady who has given birth to her son in a stable. The guests are dismissive (“A kid born in a stable, big deal”) but of course their way of life would ultimately be swept away by the kid in the stable.
It’s one last barb, this time at the film’s audience, who may, through the epic films, watch the events of the Bible unfold on our screens, but often carry on unaffected by what we see.
Then, a few days after Matt posted his review of that film, New Yorker critic Richard Brody tweeted a link to a French article about a currently-untitled collection of comedy sketches due next year that takes aim at anti-Semitic clichés.
Brody highlighted (and translated) this sentence in particular:
In another sketch, worthy of Monty Python, the Mossad invents a time machine to send its best agent (Gilles Lellouche) to get even with Jesus, in order to spare the Jews two thousand years of anti-Semitism for deicide.
Say, this reminds me, what ever happened to that Hebrew Hammer sequel?