Jesus Christ Savior
Venue: Edinburgh Film Festival
EDINBURGH, Scotland -- The reputation of Klaus Kinski, the enigmatic, mercurial German actor famed for his collaborations with director Werner Herzog, has steadily risen since his 1991 death, and his cult status is further boosted by "Jesus Christ Savior" ("Jesus Christus Erloser"). Seamlessly and ingeniously pieced together from fragmentary, long-lost audio and sound footage by director Peter Geyer (co-editor with Konrad Bohley and Michael Dreher), it reconstructs a one-man-show from 1971 that was part hippie-era "happening," part spoken-word performance, part spectacular ego-trip for the ever-unpredictable spellbinding star. Too esoteric for general consumption, this "Savior" will find disciples in the more outre corners of the film-festival circuit before enjoying lengthy resurrection on DVD.
In between countless movies, Kinski toured German theaters reciting great works of literature. But his own, self-penned text, a monologue recasting Jesus Christ as a radical political troublemaker, finds a mixed reception from the 5,000 paying customers when premiering at West Berlin's cavernous Deutschlandhalle.
It's Kinski's drastic methods of dealing with his hecklers that provide "Jesus Christ Saviour" with much of its drama. Storming on and off the stage, the ultra-intense, spotlight-bathed Kinski is visibly engaged in a fierce battle not only with his not-so-adoring public but also with himself, heroically determined to continue with his spiel even as proceedings threaten to unravel into chaos.
Easier to admire than enjoy, "Jesus Christ Savior" is sustained by Kinski's persistence and charisma, even if his sprawling, repetitive text doesn't quite justify all this bother and palaver.