Thursday, May 21, 2020

Documentary Film: "Joseph the Hesychast" (2020)


A new documentary on the great 20th-century Athonite spiritual father St. Joseph the Hesychast, starring the Emmy-award winning Jonathan Jackson.






Tuesday, May 19, 2020

A Turkish Film About a Crypto-Christian from Pontus


Directed by Yusuf Kurcenli, Yuregine Sor (Ask Your Heart) is a 2010 Turkish film which is a true story about a woman of Muslim faith (Esma) who falls in love with a Crypto-Christian (Mustafa). Prior to 1856, Christians had fewer rights than Muslims as citizens of the Ottoman Empire. For that reason, many Christians chose to practice Islam in public and Christianity in private.

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Interview With Yelena Popovic, Director of the Upcoming Film about Saint Nektarios, titled "Man of God"


In the video below is an interview with Director Yelena Popovic, with updates on her upcoming film about Saint Nektarios titled "Man of God". Currently it is in pre-production, although they were scheduled to be in production back in March, but due to the coronavirus outbreak production had to be temporarily halted, with hopes of resuming by the end of May. The video interview is followed by an essay she wrote on why she is doing the film. Then there are some photos with the star of the film, Aris Servetalis, who will play Saint Nektarios, at a talk he did in Greece back in December.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

The Confession of Aliki Vougiouklaki at the Monastery of Saint Ephraim of Nea Makri


Aliki Vougiouklaki was one of the most popular actresses in Greece, and was given the title of the National Star of Greece. She died on 23 July 1996 at the age of 62, just three months after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer while touring in Thessaloniki for a performance of "The Sound of Music". Her funeral was held in the Athens Cathedral on 25 July 1996 and she was buried in the First Cemetery of Athens.

A month before her death, in June of 1996, Vougiouklaki visited the Monastery of Saint Ephraim in Nea Makri. Archimandrite Philotheos Theodoropoulos, who was present during this visit, revealed the emotional conversation that Aliki Vougiouklaki had with the abbess Makaria at the monastery she founded and to whom Saint Ephraim wondrously revealed his martyrdom and the location of his relics:

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Jonathan Jackson Dedicates an Album of Songs to Saint Joseph the Hesychast


Great Hours is the title of the album of songs dedicated to the memory of the great ascetic of Mount Athos, Saint Joseph the Hesychast, for the spiritual support he has offered to the world over time.

The song that follows this update, titled "A Prayer for All", comes from Mount Athos and is a prayer to our Creator, a poetic discourse on the Divine love of the Saint. It symbolizes the unity and need we all have now, in this painful ordeal for mankind to pray to God.

Friday, April 17, 2020

Movie Review: "King of Kings" (1961)


King of Kings

Director: Nicholas Ray

Producer: Samuel Bronston

Screenplay: Philip Yordan, Ray Bradbury (uncredited)

Narrated by: Orson Welles (uncredited)

Cinematographer: Manuel Berenguer, Milton R. Krasner, Franz Planer

Music by: Miklós Rózsa

Starring: Jeffrey Hunter as Jesus

Production company: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Country: United States

Initial release: October 11, 1961

Run Time: 168 minutes

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Movie Review: "Ben-Hur" (1959)


Ben-Hur

Director: William Wyler

Producer: Sam Zimbalist

Screenplay: Karl Tunberg, Gore Vidal and Christopher Fry

Based on: Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ by General Lew Wallace

Cinematographer: Robert L. Surtees

Music by: Miklós Rózsa

Starring: Claude Heater as Jesus, also Charlton Heston, Jack Hawkins, Haya Harareet, Stephen Boyd

Production company: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Country: United States

Initial release: November 18, 1959

Run Time: 212 minutes

Monday, April 13, 2020

Movie Review: "The Robe" (1953)



The Robe

Director: Henry Koster

Screenplay: Gina Kaus, Albert Maltz, Philip Dunne

Based on: The Robe by Lloyd C. Douglas

Cinematographer: Leon Shamroy

Music by: Alfred Newman

Starring: Donald C. Klune as Jesus, also Richard Burton, Jean Simmons, Victor Mature, Michael Rennie

Production company: 20th Century Fox

Country: United States

Initial release: September 16, 1953

Run Time: 135 minutes

Following the success of Quo Vadis? in 1951, which was made to take advantage of the post-World War 2 "return to religion" in America, 20th Century Fox produced The Robe in 1953, directed by Henry Koster, and based on the novel by Lloyd C. Douglas. This was the first film produced in the new wide-screen Cinemascope. Richard Burton has the central role as Marcellus, the Roman Tribune responsible for carrying out the crucifixion of Jesus.

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Movie Review: "Golgotha"; a.k.a. "Behold the Man" (1935)


Golgotha
a.k.a. Ecce Homo; Behold the Man

Director: Julien Duvivier

Screenplay: Joseph Reymond

Cinematographer: Jules Kruger

Starring: Robert Le Vigan as Jesus

Production company: Transat Films

Country: France

Initial release: 12 April 1935

Run Time: 95 minutes

When Jesus spoke for the first time on the cinematic screen, it was in French, not English. This French film was Julien Duvivier's Ecce Homo released in 1935 with Robert Le Vigan in the title role. Two years later, 1937, the film was dubbed in English and shown in the United States with the title Golgotha or Behold the Man. As the name suggests, this movie focuses on the events of Passion Week, beginning with Palm Sunday and ending with the Resurrection and Ascension. In doing this, the film returns to the origins of depicting Jesus on screen with a focus on the Passion, Death and Resurrection, much in the tradition of the old Passion Plays.

Monday, April 6, 2020

Movie Review: "The King of Kings" (1927)


The King of Kings

Director: Cecil B. DeMille

Screenplay: Jeannie Macpherson

Cinematographer: J. Peverell Marley, F.J. Westerberg

Starring: H.B. Warner as Jesus

Production company: Pathé Exchange

Country: United States

Initial release: April 19, 1927

Run Time: 155 minutes

Cecil B. DeMille's The King of Kings is the first truly Hollywood blockbuster film about Jesus, and it is both epic and spectacular. Following DeMille's other spectacular biblical film, The Ten Commandments, in 1923, and before his epic story of the persecution of the early Christians, The Sign of the Cross, in 1932, The King of Kings, released in 1927, premiered at the grand opening of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood in its original 155-minute cut, though it was widely released with the 112-minute cut. I have not seen the latter, but just finished the longer cut version, and all I can say is that this is perhaps one of the best film versions of the life of Jesus, if not the very best of them.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Movie Review: "Intolerance" (1916)


Intolerance

Director: D. W. Griffith

Screenplay: D. W. Griffith

Cinematographer: Billy Bitzer

Starring: Howard Gaye as Jesus

Production company: Triangle Distributing Corporation

Initial release: September 5, 1916

Run Time: 197 Min

Director D.W. Griffith is perhaps most know for his groundbreaking but controversial film The Birth of a Nation (1915), but his follow up Intolerance (1916) (which can be seen perhaps partly as a response to accusations of perpetuating racial stereotypes and glorifying the Klu Klux Klan in The Birth of a Nation) is considered by many to be his masterpiece, and indeed the greatest film of the whole silent era. Griffiths mammoth film, also subtitled: "A Sun-Play of the Ages" and "Love's Struggle Throughout the Ages.", consists of four distinct but parallel stories that demonstrated mankind's intolerance during four different ages in world history. Intolerance was a colossal undertaking filled with monumental sets, lavish period costumes, and more than 3,000 extras.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Movie Review: "The Birth, the Life and the Death of Christ" (1906)


The Birth, the Life and the Death of Christ

a.k.a. La vie du Christ

Director: Alice Guy-Blaché

Screenplay: Alice Guy-Blaché

Cinematographer: Anatole Thiberville

Costume Design and Production Design: Victorin-Hippolyte Jasset

Starring: Unknown

Production company: Gaumont

Initial release: 1906

Run Time: 33 Min

Alice Guy-Blaché, the first female film director, wrote and directed this 1906 French film about Jesus from his birth to resurrection in 25 scenes. This early extravaganza film had over 100 extras and in 1906 was the biggest hit that French filmmaking had ever seen. It was Gaumont Film Company's big blockbuster. At the time this film was made, it's director/producer, Alice Guy, was also the head of Gaumont film production. She used the illustrated Tissot Bible as reference material for the film. Most scenes in this early film have all the action taking place in front of a still camera. However, one scene "Climbing Golgotha", includes an early innovative sweeping pan shot. It is also one of the first films to have actors walking in and out of screen.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Movie Review: "From the Manger to the Cross"; a.k.a. "Jesus of Nazareth" (1912)


From the Manger to the Cross

A.K.A.: Jesus of Nazareth

Director: Sidney Olcott

Producer: Frank J. Marion

Writer: Gene Gauntier

Cinematography: George K. Hollister

Starring: Robert Henderson-Bland as Jesus

Year: 1912

Duration: 71'

From the Manger to the Cross was a marvel of its day. First, it was filmed on location in Egypt and Palestine; second, the production cost $100,000; and third, because of its length of five reels, when two reels were still common, making this the first feature film about Jesus. The title of the film captures the story from beginning to end. It begins with the Birth of Christ and ends with the Crucifixion. When on the cross, Jesus drops his head, the words from John 3:16 appear on the screen with three crosses on the horizon, and the film ends. There is no Resurrection or Ascension scene.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Mary Shelley as a Philhellene


By John Sanidopoulos

In the summer of 1816 Percy Bysshe Shelley and Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin traveled to Switzerland in order to meet Lord Byron. The meeting had been engineered by Mary’s stepsister, Claire Clairmont, who had been Byron’s mistress in London and who was pregnant with his child. At this point Byron had lost interest in Claire yet in Percy Shelley he found a great friend. Byron and the (future) Shelleys rented houses in close proximity on the shores of Lake Geneva and spent much time together that very rainy summer, socializing together in the evenings and exploring local sites of interest during the day.

The summer in Geneva also inspired Shelley’s lover, and later wife, Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin. One rainy evening as the company was sitting around the fire, reading aloud German ghost stories, Byron challenged each person present to write their own ghostly tale. Shortly afterwards, in a waking dream, Mary conceived the idea for Frankenstein, the story of a scientist who brings life to a likeness of man with disastrous consequences. Completed when she was still only 19 years old, the novel, which was first published anonymously, has never since gone out of print.

Saturday, March 7, 2020

Movie Review: "Star of Bethlehem" (1909)


The Star of Bethlehem

Director: Edwin S. Porter

Production Co: Edison Manufacturing Company

Language: English and Italian

Country: USA

Release Date: 19 March 1909

Duration: 8:17

Sound Mix: Silent

Color: Black and White

This Edison movie was directed fairly late in his career by Edwin S. Porter. It covers the Annunciation, the arrival of Joseph and Mary in Bethlehem, the appearance of the star and the angels to the shepherds, the Nativity, and the adoration of the magi.

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Movie Review: "The Passion" (1898)


La Passion (The Passion)

A.K.A.: La vie et la passion de Jésus-Christ (The Life and Passion of Jesus Christ)

Directors: Louis Lumière, George Hatot

Cinematography: Alexandre Premio

Starring: Bretteau as Jesus

Year: 1898

Duration: 11'

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Announcement: The Lenten Jesus Films Challenge (20 Films in 40 Days)


Beginning this Monday, which is Clean Monday and the beginning of Great Lent, I am going to watch then review twenty films about Jesus over the course of forty days. I am typically not a big fan of movies about Jesus, though some are certainly better than others, but I think they all merit a review from an Orthodox Christian perspective. When I was younger I used to watch as many biblical films as I could get a hold of, but as I grew older I have stayed away from them because I know odds are I won't like them. It's been years since I've had an appetite for them. But now I am going to approach each film with an open mind and evaluate them as fairly as I can. All the reviews will be posted at this website. I am hoping to make this an annual tradition until I get through every movie about Jesus, and believe me, there are a lot more than you can imagine. I have only so far selected about half a dozen films I will be reviewing this Lent, so if you have any suggestions, pass them along at my email address: mystagogy@aol.com and I will take your suggestions into serious consideration.

P.S. This is not a public challenge I recommend for others to participate in, though feel free to do so if you wish. It is a personal challenge.



Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Documentary Trailer: "Philothei the Athenian: The Revolution of a Woman" (2019)


A dramatized historical documentary on the life and revolutionary activity of Philothei, a woman who dared to defy the authority of Suleiman the Magnificent. She freed men and women from the slave markets and provided refuge for women abused and pregnant. She created the first school for women in Europe and founded a hospital. Her revolutionary activity riled the conqueror and the establishment: she was tortured and killed in 1589.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Movie: "The Horde" (2012)


The Horde is a 2012 historical film directed by Andrei Proshkin and written by Yuri Arabov. The film is a highly fictionalized narrative of how Saint Alexis, Metropolitan of Moscow, healed Taidula Khatun, the mother of the Golden Horde khan Jani Beg, from blindness.

Most of the dialogues in The Horde are in the Karachay-Balkar language (with Russian overdub in the theatrical release). Filmmakers considered Karachay-Balkar as the living language most closely resembling Kipchak spoken by the 14th century Golden Horde. Nevertheless, none of the actors of Turkic extraction are native speakers of the language; Dakayarov, Lovov, and Yegorov are Yakuts, whereas Hairullina is Volga Tatar.

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Movie: "The Day the Earth Stood Still" (1951)


I've decided to begin a series called Movie of the Week, in which I will recommend a movie to be seen every week, from the past or the present, with a certain perspective in mind that would be of interest to my readers. This past week I had the opportunity to see the 1951 film The Day the Earth Stood Still on the big screen. It is a favorite film of mine that I have seen at least a handful of times, but never on the big screen. If you have seen this film, then I highly recommend a rewatch if you have never seen it from the perspective mentioned below.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

The Good Guy/Bad Guy Myth


The Good Guy/Bad Guy Myth

Pop culture today is obsessed with the battle between good and evil. Traditional folktales never were. What changed?

Catherine Nichols
January 25, 2018

The first time we see Darth Vader doing more than heavy breathing in Star Wars (1977), he’s strangling a man to death. A few scenes later, he’s blowing up a planet. He kills his subordinates, chokes people with his mind, does all kinds of things a good guy would never do. But then the nature of a bad guy is that he does things a good guy would never do. Good guys don’t just fight for personal gain: they fight for what’s right – their values.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Observations About Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale from "The Scarlett Letter"


"Happy are you, Hester, that wear the scarlet letter openly upon your bosom! Mine burns in secret! Thou little knowest what a relief it is, after the torment of a seven years' cheat, to look into an eye that recognizes me for what I am!" (17.18)

The fictional character of Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale is the most fascinating character, next to Hester Prynne herself, created by Nathaniel Hawthorne for his 1850 novel The Scarlet Letter. Arthur was a Puritan minister in Puritan New England. This means that he believed in predestination, where one believes that one cannot choose salvation, for it is the privilege of God alone. All features of salvation are determined by God's sovereignty, including choosing those who will be saved. The Puritans distinguished between "justification," or the gift of God's grace given to the elect, and "sanctification," the holy behavior that supposedly resulted when an individual had been saved. Keeping the commandments of God was proof of your faith and salvation, but falling short of living in accordance with the commandments of God could prove that you were not among the elect.

Friday, January 10, 2020

The Confession of Faith of Popular Greek Singer Nikos Vertis


Nikos Vertis is a popular Greek singer with five released albums to date. In an interview a few days ago on ΑΝΤ1 he was asked about and spoke about his Christian faith, among other things, which is a rare topic for him to address, and even spoke about the lack of faith among today's youth. He said:

"I love Christ very much, I have Him in my life. We are going through a time when many people, especially young people, are afraid to say, 'I believe in Christ.' I don't like this. I want everyone to have the freedom to express what they believe, whether its Christ or Muhammad or nothing. I don't think it's nice to hear, 'I believe in a higher power.' It bothers me, because yes, everyone thinks there is something higher, but they are afraid to express it. Why do I believe in Christ? Not for the miracles He has done or have been written about. I believe in Christ because He has this thing that represents me in my life. The beginning and the end. What is this? Love. With love you solve everything in your life, you fight everything, even your problems, if you have love, they are solved right away, automatically, the knot leaves your stomach. What does love mean? Go home, there is your wife, your family, your friends. If you have problems and they come to pat you on the back, what is it, but love. So this is Christ to me and that's what He taught me.

Monday, January 6, 2020

"All-Bright Theophany": A Short Story by Alexandros Papadiamantis


All-Bright Theophany

By Alexandros Papadiamantis

(1894)

Constanti Plantari’s small boat was running the risk of foundering, while plodding among mountains of billowing waves, each of which was enough to capsize, without letting up, many and strong vessels and send them into the sufficiently spacious abysses, which were able to insatiably devour a hundred boats. It was almost about to sink. A savage northerly wind was blowing full blast ploughing deep trenches in the sea, and the captain of the small shallop had struck down its sail as it was lying to windward. So the boat, left only with its mast, was drifting before the wind and was trying to tack. In vain. After a while the sea held the miserable cork of a boat in its sway and the wind blew it hither and thither. Captain Kostanti Plantari immediately forgot every blasphemy he knew and was preparing to say his prayers while his companion, deckhand Tsotsos, a seventeen-year-old adolescent was stripping off his clothes and ready to dive overboard hoping to swim to safety. The only passenger, cattle-dealer Pramatis, was weeping and thinking it was not worth the trouble to sail on the large sea to drown since firma terra was sufficient to bury so many people.