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Pasolini is an interesting character—a young man of good family who very sensitively immersed himself among Rome's layabouts, a professed Marxist and agnostic who wishes he could share the Christian faith. These contradictions provide good reason for hoping for a film about a Christ which, for once, isn't bowdlerised, paralysed and altogether emasculated by a complacent reverence which in these days of napalm and thalidomide is as useless for Sunday School children as it is for adults. Christianity, when it was young, was a revolutionary religion, even if the revolution was not that of the sword. Pasolini might show Christianity as the faith of those who try to move mountains, not of those who pretend they're not there.
The difficulty is perhaps that Christianity is so many-faceted and ambiguous that every Christian meets his own Christ, and a director who doesn't have some sort of personal conviction is going to have immense difficulty making up his mind as to which Christ he means to make a film about—especially as all powerful organizations with different views are going to denounce him as heretical, blasphemous and so on. The prospect of a Marxist Christ is very exciting, especially in view of the current Marxist concentration on "alientation" and other spiritual diseases. Again, a hard-headed approach to the founder of Christianity might enable the cinema to catch up with the "historical" Christ proposed by Dr. Schweitzer, who erred humanly as well as forgiving divinely; or with the "socio-political" Christ emerging from current studies of the Dead Sea Scrolls and other forms of historical research.
The style of playing evokes Bresson (the sermons delivered in a fast, hard, impassive style), and the film is in a sense the spiritual rendezvous of Bresson and Rossellini. Pasolini's "neo-realism" paradoxically results in a major poetic departure. The magnificent settings are visibly in ruins (an effect matched in certain Renaissance paintings), giving a strange pathos and timelessness, while the village-size crowds give a trenchant intimacy to the Jerusalem scenes, too often handled in an emptily spectacular way.
Whether or not this is Pasolini's original cut, I don't know (the Venice Festival version was considerably shortened). But, just for the record, it doesn't, as has been said, show Matthew's Gospel fully: notably, omissions include Matthew 19:12, 22:24, 24:29, 26:35, 27:37 and various thoughts and details which I should have thought more important than the (historically dubious) Massacre of the Innocents.