First of all, you should probably exercise caution before going to see The Man Who Was Thursday if you are deeply Catholic or like your movies straightforward and easy to digest. This is a film that is as confusing as it is borderline blasphemous and if you think that’s me disparaging the film then you’d be wrong on both counts. The Man Who..ah screw it I’m going with TMWWT (not to be confused with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, these are very different films) counts this disorientation as a strength to create a befuddling (new favourite word) narrative about religion, fascism, and betrayal? Or it could be none of these facets so you probably get the idea of the kind of movie you’re going to see.
I’ll attempt to lay out the basic plot. TMWWT: Out of the Shadows (even I’m confusing it with the Turtles) is based on the classic story by G.K. Chesterton and tells the tale of a disgraced young priest who is tasked by the church to infiltrate an underground anarchist group in Rome and report back. If that doesn’t sound too strange then get prepared to be mind-fucked. You see, as Father Smith goes about this task he appears to slip through time at various points with the people he has encountered playing the same parts but with key differences. For instance, sometimes Father Smith will find himself in 1940s Italy where his priest buddies are now Mussolini’s fascist lieutenants, other times he’s in a more current Rome where the clergy appear as police officers.
It’s extremely hard to explain so I’m not sure why I bothered but it should give you a sense of where director Balazs Juszt is going. Is he making a direct comparison between Mussolini’s fascist dictatorship and the Roman Catholic Church? Probably. Is TMWWT: Turtles in Time calling for an anarchist dissolution of religion? Maybe. You’ll have to answer these questions yourself. However while you’re doing that you’ll get to enjoy some great performances. Francois Arnaud (Cesare Borgia in The Borgias) as Father Smith/Thursday is suitably bewildered and Emanuela Postacchini is innocent and lovable as Wednesday. Best of all is Ana Ularu as Saturday, the most passionate of the underground revolutionaries. Ularu is a great screen presence and gets to deliver most of the most memorable lines including a one shot monologue which she handles beautifully. Expect to see more from her in future.
If TMWWT: Mutants in Manhattan sounds too much like listening to philosophy students trying to impress girls in bars, then bear in mind it also includes fights, shoot-outs, gore, and quite a lot of sex. In the first fifteen minutes Father Smith bangs a prostitute, takes a load of drugs, and burns down a church (otherwise known as ‘Friday’ in the Berlusconi house) which sets the tone for the rest of the film. It lapses into slight pretension occasionally and the end lays on the metaphysical exposition a little thick but TMWWT: (one more? OK) The Secret of the Ooze is a bold, weird, and well made movie about the struggle between chaos and structure which is well worth finding if you’re in a particularly blasphemous mood. Just don’t buy it for your Catholic granny this Christmas.
What’s the worst thing you’ve seen a priest do? Actually don’t answer that. What’s your favourite Turtles movie? Let me know in the comments below.
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