The Gospel According to Matthew [Masters of Cinema] [UK] Blu-ray Review
- Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
- Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
- Resolution: 1080p/24 (24Hz)
- Audio Codec: Italian LPCM 2.0 Mono (48kHz/16-bit)
- Subtitles: English
- Region: B (Region-Locked)
- Certification: U
- Discs: 2 (1 x Blu-ray + 1 x DVD)
- Run time: 137 Mins.
- Studio: Eureka Entertainment
- Blu-ray Release Date: March 26, 2012
- RRP: £23.48
Click thumbnails for high-resolution 1920X1080p screen captures
(All Blu-rayDefinition.com screen captures are lightly compressed with lossy JPEG at 100% quality setting and are meant as a general representation of the content. They do not fully reveal the capabilities of the Blu-ray format)
We’re heading towards Easter and with that comes the usual rush of titles into the stores dealing with the life of Jesus. Two such films this year hitting Blu-ray are The Last Temptation of Christ from the Criterion Collection and this, The Gospel According to Matthew (Il vangelo secondo Matteo). The two films couldn’t be any more different – they are polar opposites. Whereas Martin Scorsese’s Last Temptation was an emotional and controversial film based on a work of fiction, Pasolini’s Gospel is a cool, emotionally detached work – commissioned by the Catholic church itself — no less – based directly on the words from the Book of Matthew.
Pasolini tells the story of Jesus with a cast of amateurs, including Enrique Irazoqui in the pivotal role, from birth straight through to his resurrection and, in his own way, somehow distills his own atheistic views down in a manner that comes across as pure religiosity. By using only small phrases and Christ’s own parables from Matthew he turns the story into one of a radical, anti-establishment leader entreating his followers to rise up against an oppressive (read: Romans) and corrupt (read: the established Jewish leaders) regime, not for his own glory, but for that of his father, God.
Pasolini turns in an almost stream of consciousness feel through the use of visually existential imagery and a mixture of contemporary and traditional music that runs from Bach all the way to the American gospel of Odetta. That he had Satan appear in the form of a Roman Catholic priest to tempt Jesus without an inkling of controversy or contempt (at the time, at least) from the religious establishment, is itself another testament to his skill as a filmmaker.
This 1080p/24 AVC/MPEG-4 encodement of The Gospel According to Matthew from the Masters of Cinema series looks very natural and film-like. There is a textured layer of grain throughout the presentation though background detail tends to waver a bit between sharp and soft, but overall this transfer is a winner. Source damage is hardly an issue and the stark black and white photography is bolstered by a pretty good amount of contrast, although it could be a bit stronger for my tastes, with deeper blacks to offer a more solid foundation.
While the original monaural soundtrack, presented here in LPCM 2.0 (48kHz/16-bit), does have a bit more audible hiss than usual, it offers a fully acceptable aural presentation with, presumably (“presumably” since I don’t speak Italian) intelligible dialogue. There are only the mildest hints of crackle from time to time audible on the musical passages and sometimes on dialogue.
This is a really strong supplemental package that includes Pasolni’s documentary on the film’s production and a particularly strong 36-page booklet featuring Pasolini’s own words and excerpts from the book of Matthew, among other writings.
- Original Trailer (1.85:1; 1080p/24; 00:05:06)
- Sopralluoghi in Palestina (1.33:1; 1080p/24; 00:53:37) – This documentary depicts Pier Paolo Pasolini’s scouting sorties during his preliminary search, in 1963, for locations for The Gospel According to Matthew, which he would film the following year.
- Newsreel (1.33:1; 1080p/24; 00:01:16) – An extract from La settimana incom weekly newsreel, No. 2385, July 12, 1963. Pasolini is interviewed on his return from Saint-Vincent, Italy (the Grolle d’oro film awards), and talks of his filming of Sopralluoghi in Palestina.
- Outtakes (1.33:1; 1080p/24; 00:03:17) – A selection of outtakes from the original Sopralluoghi in Palestina rushes.
- Booklet: A 36-page booklet featuring a 1963 letter by Pasolini to Lucio S. Caruso of the Catholic Pro Civitate Christiana; a 2012-updated essay on the film by critic Pasquale Iannone; excerpts from a 1969 interview with Pasolini by Oswald Stack, on The Gospel According to Matthew and Sopralluoghi in Palestina; an excerpt from the Book of Matthew; and rare archival imagery
The Definitive Word
Another wonderful classic hits Blu-ray from Eureka’s Masters of Cinema series in top-notch transfer that is sure to please cinephiles. Arriving just in time for Easter, The Gospel According to Matthew, renamed with the “St.” removed as Pasolini intended it, should be a must for anyone interested in “the greatest story ever told.”
Additional Screen Captures
Tags: Art House, Avant-Garde, Drama, Eureka Entertainment, Historical, Il vangelo secondo Matteo, Italian Language, Masters of Cinema, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Religion, The Gospel According to Matthew, World Cinema