Jesus of Montreal is not a religious film in a strict sense of the word but many people who have seen it feel the power of its convictions enough to call it a religious film.
Directed by Denys Arcand (The Barbarian Invasions) the film is a about a group of young actors in modern day Montreal who are hired by the Catholic church to revive a Passion Play to be presented on the grounds of the church, which overlooks the city of Montreal.
The main actor who gets everyone together is Daniel (Lothaire Bluteau). The other actors are a guy who normally does voice-over for porn films, a woman friend, a model who had never done any serious acting and another actor who will only do the play if he can wedge in Hamlet's soliloquy.
Using the texts of the Gospels in the Bible they fashion a passion play that while staying true to the facts and words of the gospels also elaborate a bit on Jesus' message giving it a modern interpretation. The play is a verifiable hit but the Catholic Church frowns upon it because it eschews dogma. They ask that the play be changed back to a strict interpretation or they will cancel it.
The actors refuse to change anything and insist on doing more performances.
Daniel is a quiet unassuming man but he identifies too much with the role of Jesus and the lines between fiction and reality begin to blur. He starts to see injustice as well as the obvious lies that money, power and crass commercialism can bring to the world. But some of his ideas and his actions off the stage are not acceptable to the real world - especially when he turns over the tables at a casting call in a television studio.
Jesus of Montreal is not about Jesus or even about Catholicism as much as it is about ethics and integrity. It's a film about a group of actor's passion to carry on with a play they believe in. And it is about one man who begins to see a truth about the world that he cannot bear and cannot function in.
The directing and acting is very good. And other than a couple scenes that seem dated and a couple that feel like filler it is still an enjoyable and effective film.
Overall, Jesus of Montreal has lost none of it's urgency and passion and in the context of The Passion of the Christ it gains a bit of interest.
However the DVD presentation leaves a lot to be desired.
The most disappointing thing about this DVD is the video transfer. The film is presented in full frame [1.33:1] and the image quality is poor. The colors are washed out and the image seems to be more of VHS quality than film. Considering that Koch Lorbor recently released a nice transfer of La Dolce Vita it is too bad they could not do the same for this film.
**Update** Subtitles are not burned into the image. Meaning they can be removed. This is good news. There is also a Spanish subtitles option.
Audio is presented in 5.1 Surround sound and seems good. There is an option of the film's original French or English dubbed.
There is only one trailer and some short cast bios.
Jesus of Montreal is a very good film that deserves to be seen. But the quality of the DVD is below par. Hopefully someone will re-release a better region one copy. [Perhaps a better version exists in Canada].