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The Brand New Testament - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
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The Brand New Testament
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Directing: B+
Acting: B
Writing: B
Cinematography: B+
Editing: B+
Special Effects: B+



It's too bad The Brand New Testament is having such a severely limited run. I'm writing this on the last of only three days it's playing at the SIFF Film Center at Seattle Center. Quick! If you hurry, you might make the very last showing of the weekend at 8:30!

Or, you should save it in your queues on whatever streaming service you subscribe to, so you can watch it when it becomes available there. I found it worth going to the theatre to see; some won't. It's a very fanciful, strange, often bizarre and even absurd movie that barely maintains a thread of coherence at times. It's the kind of thing that works for me. Set in Luxembourg and spoken in French with English subtitles, it often has the same charms as a movie like Amélie (2001) -- which, as it happens, also featured Yolande Moreau in a supporting part. Here she plays God's wife and is a woman of few words. Her penchants for embroidery and baseball both turn out to be crucial plot points.

Perhaps just because it's fun to do, God is here depicted as a deadbeat dad who abuses his family and works on his computer to manipulate humans with petty annoyances for his own amusement. His ten-year-old daughter, Ea (a truly wonderful Pili Groyne), decides to get revenge. She hacks his computer and notifies everyone on earth of how much longer they have to live until they die. Everyone gets a notification on their smart phones. Notable exceptions: the homeless, or at least the ones who don't have phones.

So of course, here we have some rather provocative existential questions. What would you do, if you knew exactly when you were going to die? Some of the many examples shown are clear examples of deaths happening as a direct result of getting the notification. One running gag has a guy who knows he has many years to go defying fate with increasingly stupendous and death-defying stunts.

Ea's mother, the largely wordless goddess, feels Ea's older brother Jesus would have fared better had his disciples numbered 18 instead of 12, because that's the number needed for baseball. Ea travels down to Earth via her family's washing machine (just go with it) in order to find the six extra disciples. One of them is played by Catherine Deneuve. Her eventual relationship with a gorilla straddles the line between silly and uncomfortable.

Presumably that's what director and co-writer Jaco Van Dormael was going for. There's not a lot of logic in this story, but then, if you look at it objectively, neither is there in the Bible. Ea finds one of the aforementioned homeless people to write the Brand New Testament for her, evidently because she's just the first person she meets after coming out of the laundromat where the other end of that portal from her home is. She goes one by one to her six people chosen at random on God's computer, to decree that they be disciples. One by one their likenesses are added to the painting of The Last Supper on the wall back at home.

As such, much of The Brand New Testament unfolds as though in chapters. We meet a whole bunch of people, all of them very different from each other, all of them equally compelling in wildly different ways. The narrative thread here is a bit loose, but this movie never stops being fun. It's often quite funny, and otherwise either amusing or thought-provoking. Even deeper than the undertones of dark comedy can be found a lot of stuff to ponder.

God's computer gets hacked by the daughter we never knew he had in THE BRAND NEW TESTAMENT.


Overall: B+
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