Messiah (Le Messie)
William Klein, France1999, 35mm transferred to digiBeta, 117 min
Music: George Frideric Handel, libretto: Charles Jennens
Klein’s irreverent eye for satire transforms Handel’s Messiah, the conductor’s famously jubilant oratorio, into a soaring, musical collage of humanity at the turn of the millennium. Ranging from the grotesque to the sublime, from the mundane to the tragic, from the sacred to the profane, the film documents diverse performances of the ubiquitous choral piece internationally, exploring Handel’s music in relation to the lives of the people singing it in such far-flung locations asDublin,Soweto,Jakarta andLas Vegas. Klein’s cast includes Texas prison inmates, a gay choir in Times Square, the Lavender Light, the Dallas Police Choir, women boxers at the Taj Mahal, a drug rehab choir in Harlem, thousands of sobbing Promise Keepers in Detroit’s Superdome, several hundred wealthy arts patrons attired for Houston’s annual Hair Ball, the Ministers of Muscle and Les Musiciens du Louvre. Performed in its entirety, the oratorio bcomes a fascinating lens on the gritty reality of contemporary rituals of atrocity and exultation.