Daniel Lanois: Canadian
“Jolie Louise”; ‘Acadie’ (1989)
A Two Minute & Twenty-Two Second Adventure: Shopping
Let me know if the YouTube isn’t available.
This personal video thing is something new… it may not even stay up. I’m thinking about taking short clips of things I do during the week and post some of them… as is.
I’ve been watching a movie called Heaven’s Gate, which alternates between being one of the best movies I’ve ever seen and one of the more frustratingly horrible. It’s a 1980 movie about the 1890’s Johnson County War, which was basically a mini-war in Wyoming between wealthy land owners and really poor Eastern European immigrants.
“Elmer Gantry” is on now… there’s a program on TVO, Ontario’s public broadcaster, called ‘Saturday Night At The Movies’. Every Saturday night they play two classic movies — usually with some theme in common — plus interviews done way back in the day with the people who made it. This week the common element is both films, “Gate” and “Gantry”, were both United Artist pictures… Gantry was one of its most successful, winning an Academy Award for Burt Lancaster and Shirley Jones, and “Gate” was the movie which bankrupted the movie studio.
Elmer Gantry is one of my favourites, it’s a 1960’s movie based on a book from the 1920’s… it’s about Revivalism, one of the last things Gantry says in the movie is from Corinthians chapter one, 13:11 “When I was a child, I understood as a child and spake as a child. When I became a man, I put away childish things.” I’ve always loved that…
The history of religion in the United States, and Canada to a much lessor extent, is fairly wrapped up in “Gantry”. I’ve never read the book, but the movie follows a road-side tent Revivalist named Sister Sharon as she crosses the country… Burt plays Gantry, a salesman slash huckster who can preach like Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell combined.
At first Sister Sharon is a street preacher “the common people put Christianity on the map in the first place”, but after Gantry falls for her his involvement grows her ministry as they move from town to town. Sister Sharon is too clean, she couldn’t offer sermons from the gutter, but Gantry, who had lived there and learned how to speak the language, could… “like two cops working over a criminal, Gantry offering them the electric chair and you offering them heaven.”
But Gantry was corrupted, he was living a con because of his growing infatuation for Sister Sharon, and Sister Sharon was enthralled with the power he brought and his ability to drag her ministry into ever larger tents… so, of course, in the end every thing goes up in flames because Sister Sharon, as good as Good ever was, has been convinced by Gantry of her Blessedness.
In “Gantry” the established churches take advantage of the religious awakenings Sister Sharon leaves in her wake. After her ministry leaves a town Church attendance soars, the money flows to the alter. So the Churches want her to preach “like it or not we are in competition with entertainment”. But, as she grows, she starts to dream of a standing church of her own… maybe even one in each city and town. So the established churches, fearful of her ministry pulling parishioners from their pews, plot against her.
For all of his best intentions, and Gantry does love Sister Sharon, every thing he does to make his kaleidescope vision of what Sister Sharon wants to come true is just another step away from what she was meant to do… one more step away from what Christianity was meant to be.
Thing is, as Gantry’s unintentionally bringing Sister Sharon’s Christian ministry to the ground as she believes he is building it up… at the end he is the only one of her flock who really seems to find redemption.
So, basically, there’s a True Believer (Gantry) without any faith in the God but only in the messenger (Sister Sharon), who inadvertently kills the messenger by getting her to believe in herself over her God.
In the end Gantry and Sister Sharon split Christ’s fate… Gantry, after three days “missing”, is reborn and tries to bring Sister Sharon back to her street preaching. Sister Sharon sees a shooting star — “a fiery line across the world” — and sees in it her future as the leader of a Greater Church, thanks to the work of Gantry.
Then, during a sermon in which she begins to “faith heal” as though Christ was in her body, she is sacrificed in a fire which also takes her first permanent church… her last words to her congregation are “Those who believe in God will be saved, trust in the Lord. Wait, we must have faith.”
The common theme between “Gantry” and Heaven’s Gate” — after the United Artists thing — lies in the relationship between establishment and newcomer and how the Newbie’s inevitable corruption will lead them down the same path to becoming the Establishment and if they are to be reborn, if they want to find their path again, it’ll take a really large fire and the sacrifice of something very important.
Or something. Next week they’re playing “Soylent Green”…
If you find a broken link, or the YouTube stuff isn’t loading
properly, let me know and I’ll find an alternative…
I’m Canadian, it’s what we do. Off the ice.