In the 1927 silent version of The King of Kings, directed by Cecil B. DeMille, Christ is first seen from the point of view of a blind man regaining his sight. It is a masterful touch that adds grandeur to the story. Over the decades, scores of films have been made about Jesus of Nazareth. Many of these productions dripped with Hollywood glitz, while others tackled serious issues of faith.
After the tourist’s two blue insomniac nights, patrols of all that had been lost, botched, or sweet but severed, during the Albinoni he went off, up, away, so that, say, the sudden recall of his late mother in grainy portrait in her yearbook, over the captions: “brightest,” and—in the quaint patois of the gentry during their Depression—“most attractive,” and the despair she may have felt as children and alcohol supervened: if any such feckless maundering occurred to him . . . Well, off, up and away went she as well, borne heavenward on the andante’s strains. Two trumpets. One great organ. Peace might well lie at hand. Peace was at hand. During Martini’s toccata in C,
a vision of his tall naked wife, under a tall naked sun, produced in him in the church a subtle stirring, even a mild tumescence, which he would otherwise have described as out of order, were it not that this newer order arched so beyond any scheme he’d normally posit that within it all things were possible, as they are, it is said, with God, Who during the Manfredini revealed Himself to our tourist in what he construed as His human form, His prison garb stained and rent, His savaged body hefted by men and women—their countenances looking more angry than mournful— from a loud place like that bar on the corner of Thakurova and Evropska, which he had walked by that evening on his way to transport: the Metro, which carried him into this old quarter
in a car along with that beauteous, amorous young Czech couple with their red-tipped white staffs and whited eyes, then spilled him out to rumpsteak with garlic, alone, and then to the 9 p.m. concert, alone. During the Ave Maria of Schubert, he saw a joy he hadn’t seen in the tears of St. Peter as rendered faceforth by an artist, Swiss of all things, unknown to him till that forenoon in the Castle gallery. The wailing weanling calves of his childhood now placidly grazed. The famous small songbirds lit on the outstretched arms of Francis. Peter’s tears had appeared only woeful this morning. The hour of music concluded, the tourist walked, though it felt still like soaring, his cobblestone-wearied heels devoid of any pain, back into this world, broken and joyous and praying,
Though only the second feature by the Australian director Sue Brooks (and the first to open in this country), Japanese Story is an almost perfectly calibrated small work, like a finely shaped short story. About the serendipity of crossing paths with a stranger, it’s a sort of companion piece to Lost in Translation, but with an entirely different tone.
Coming down out of the freezing sky with its depths of light, like an angel, or a buddha with wings, it was beautiful and accurate, striking the snow and whatever was there with a force that left the imprint of the tips of its wings— five feet apart—and the grabbing thrust of its feet, and the indentation of what had been running through the white valleys of the snow—
and then it rose, gracefully, and flew back to the frozen marshes, to lurk there, like a little lighthouse, in the blue shadows— so I thought: maybe death isn’t darkness, after all, but so much light wrapping itself around us—
as soft as feathers— that we are instantly weary of looking, and looking, and shut our eyes, not without amazement, and let ourselves be carried, as through the translucence of mica, to the river that is without the least dapple or shadow— that is nothing but light—scalding, aortal light— in which we are washed and washed out of our bones.
Philosopher Michael Ruse is an ardent evolutionist and unbeliever, but he often comes to the defense of believers who are under fire from militant atheists like Richard Dawkins. Ruse says his sympathetic stance toward religion is partly due to his Quaker upbringing. “I grew up surrounded by gentle, loving (and very intelligent) Christians. I never forget that,” said Ruse. He also objects to what he regards as bad atheist arguments. Evolution explains the existence of religion as an adaptive mechanism, but that doesn’t necessarily explain it away. “It is as plausible that my love of Mozart’s operas is a byproduct of adaptation, but it doesn’t make them any the less beautiful and meaningful,” Ruse said (New York Times interview, July 8).