Hail Mary Review
By Christopher Null
"Denounced by the Pope" is pretty heavy marketing material, and one look at Hail Mary's premise can certainly make you see why he'd not take kindly to the film. Here, the lovely Myriem Roussel is a teenage gas station attendant named Marie, who becomes inexplicably pregnant despite being a virgin. She marries her boyfriend Joseph. Eventually she has a son.
Sound familiar? This reimagining of the birth of Jesus is both hauntingly beautiful and often quite funny, just the sort of surreal experience that is the hallmark of director Jean-Luc Godard's best work.
But is Hail Mary as offensive as its reputation? Aside from having Marie appear naked in just about every other scene of the film, not really. In fact, I see Hail Mary as almost celebratory, offering a far more accessible look at Christianity than a stuffy period piece or something like The Passion of the Christ. It certainly doesn't hurt to insert a little humor into Biblical canon, and Hail Mary's best bits are at the end, after little Jésus is born and he starts giving his friends new names (something I never really understood the reasons for from Biblical history). Perhaps the greatest bit is when little Jésus, seen here as a bit of a petulant brat, runs away from his parents. "He'll be back," says Joseph. "When?" asks Marie. "Easter."
Godard being Godard, of course, don't expect a tidy narrative to hold this all together. The film is a haphazard collection of scenes that only loosely come together as a whole, and many of which feel out of place altogether. (His conceit for this go-round is a title card that reads (in French) "At that time" inserted between scenes at random.) As canon, the film is intended to follow Anne-Marie Miéville's 25-minute The Book of Mary, which prefaces Hail Mary on this new DVD release and provides equally hazy visions of Marie (different actress) as a young girl.
Overall though, this is fascinating stuff that is beautifully photographed. Bonus points for making religion into something fun... and a little bit naughty.
Aka 'Je vous salue, Marie.'
Facts and Figures
In Theaters: Friday 11th October 1985
Production compaines: Gaumont, Sara Films, Pégase Films, JLG Films
Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 70%
Fresh: 7 Rotten: 3
Cast & Crew
Starring: Myriem Roussel as Marie, Thierry Rode as Joseph, Philippe Lacoste as L'ange Gabriel, Manon Andersen as La petite fille, Malachi Jara Kohan as Jésus, Juliette Binoche as Juliette