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Jésus de Montréal

(Jesus of Montreal)

Year: 1989
Language: French
Format: 35mm Colour
Runtime: 118 min
Director: Denys Arcand
Producer: Pierre Gendron, Roger Frappier
Writer: Denys Arcand
Cinematographer: Guy Dufaux
Editor: Isabelle Dedieu
Sound: Patrick Rousseau, Marcel Pothier
Music: Yves Laferrière
Cast: Paule Baillargeon, Rémy Girard, Roy Dupuis, Pauline Martin, Gilles Pelletier, Johanne-Marie Tremblay, Catherine Wilkening, Yves Jacques, Marie-Christine Barrault, Robert Lepage, Marcel Sabourin, Lothaire Bluteau, Denys Arcand
Production Company: National Film Board of Canada, Union Générale Cinématographique, Gérard Mital Productions, Max Films Productions Inc.

Denys Arcand’s film Jésus de Montréal analyzes power, institutional authority, rampant materialism and the spiritual vacuum in modern Quebec society. In 1989, it won the Special Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival and provoked the kind of passionate response that has marked much of Arcand’s work.

Dealing with the way in which the message of Christ has been distorted throughout history, the film focuses on Daniel Coulombe (Bluteau), a young actor hired by a Montreal church to direct a relevant, contemporary version of the annual Passion Play. Daniel, who is to play the role of Jesus, sets out to find his troupe, gathering his own band of disciples around him in the process, with electrifying results. The troupe creates a breathtaking reinterpretation, incorporating ancient texts, historical and theological debates about Christ, and even Hamlet’s famous soliloquy.

As the production becomes more popular, the lines between fiction and reality start to become blurred, particularly for Daniel. Much to the chagrin of the church authorities, the play is also a media sensation, and when the church leaders intervene to stop the production, the replication of the tale of Christ’s persecution and death assumes eerie proportions.

Boldly conceived and superbly executed, the film won 12 Genies including best picture, best director and best original screenplay.