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Religious films

I was searching around for a topic for my film list and was greatly aided by Front Row, the Radio 4 arts programme, which considered this genre.

It put the theme in historical context with the two celebrated versions of the Ten Commandments by Cecil B De Mille. It continued to explore sun & sandal and the oddity that religious movies could feature  sex scenes with far less censorship. Thus in Solomon and Sheba Gina Lollobrigida was jiggling her magnificent breasts in a bikini as the Queen of Sheba.

Faith movies have an obvious marketing aid, the pulpit. However, when I made my first list of religious movies, I thought of films that were more anti-religion than for it. I reflected on Robert Mitichum in his best role in Night of the Hunter as the scary sinister priest with love and hate tattooed on his knuckles; Life of Brian; Jack Hawkins as the whisky priest in Zulu. Conversely, I  could only think of Karl Malden in On The Waterfront as the strong courageous man of God  prepared to confront the corrupt union man Johnny Friendly and redeeming Marlon Brando.

This brings up to the present day and Noah which I have not seen, nor wish to. It has attracted neither critical acclaim nor popular success. The fact that cinema audiences have dropped off reflects that the most popular determinator of all, word of mouth, is against it.

My favourite religious film is Of Gods and Men, a French film about a monastic order in North Africa in the  face of attack. Lambert Wilson gives a fine performance in a deeply moving film. Ben Hur and Becket will also feature strongly in my list to be published here.

About Neil Rosen

Neil went to the City of London School and Manchester University graduating with a 1st in economics. After a brief stint in accountancy, Neil emigrated to a kibbutz In Israel. His articles on the burgeoning Israeli film industry earned comparisons to Truffaut and Godard in Cahiers du Cinema. Now one of the world's leading film critics and moderators at film Festivals Neil has written definitively in his book Kosher Nostra on Jewish post war actors. Neil lives with his family in North London. More Posts