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on November 6, 2006
"Hail Mary" (Je vous salue, Marie) is a modern-day retelling of the Annunciation and Incarnation by France's aging enfant terrible - Jean-Luc Godard. Despite the vociferous condemnation it garnered, it is a visually beautiful and surprisingly spiritual film. It hews closely to biblical narrative, albeit updated to modern times and laced with a wickedly bawdy sense of humour. Marie (Myriem Roussel) is a basketball-loving teenager attending high-school in Geneva. Her boyfriend Joseph (Thierry Rode) is a school-dropout who works as a Taxi driver. He is frustrated with her because unlike other girls, she insists on remaining a virgin. The archangel Gabriel (Philippe Lacoste) appears as a grumpy, unshaven man who arrives by airplane, accompanied by a cherubic sidekick. Gabriel takes Joseph's taxi to the petrol station where Marie works part-time for her dad. There he makes his momentous announcement to the consternation of everyone. The bulk of the film examines Marie's reaction to her situation. It is conceived as a "serious" film, delves into weighty topics, and would be hard to follow for most audiences, who will more likely focus on the pervasive nudity instead and declare themselves mightily offended.

"Hail Mary" is preceded by Anne-Marie Miéville's short film "The Book of Mary" (Le Livre de Marie) and both films should be viewed as a whole, in that order. They were shown as such upon original release. Miéville's "The Book of Mary" has nothing to do with religion or the Marie of Godard's film. It is a lovely 27-minute film about a young girl coming to terms with the separation of her parents. What it has in common with "Hail Mary" is the theme of life-change and the importance of accepting change. There is a particularly lovely sequence where little Marie (Rebecca Hampton) dances to her father's favourite recording of Mahler's 9th Symphony (Final Movement), her anguish mirrored in the music, spinning around the living room and patio until she finally collapses in grief and exhaustion. In the end, little Marie can only regain happiness when she learns to accept that change and loss are all inescapable parts of life. Immediately following the last frame of "The Book of Mary", we see the placard, "en ce temps là" (at this time), which then segues without preamble to the opening storm sequence of "Hail Mary" and then is used throughout the latter film to bookend its different scenes.

The major theme in "Hail Mary" is Marie's repeated question: which is pre-eminent? The soul or the body. This is crystalised in her dilemma; abjure the body and glorify the soul by remaining chaste and a fit vessel for the incarnation or satisfy the body by giving in to Joseph and thereby ensure his love. Marie's choice in putting her soul and God above her need for Joseph's love is contrasted with the other couple in the film, Eva and the Professor. Eva gives in to bodily lust and beds the Professor, who after he has had his way with her, dumps her and goes his merry way. Marie's choice of abstinence is rewarded by Joseph's continued, albeit grumbling presence and slowly dawning love. The final scene shows us Gabriel hailing her across the street with a loud "Je vous salue, Marie," whereupon she turns, puffs on a cigarette, smiles and after a moment's hesitation, puts on her lipstick; a confident young woman, happy with the choices she has made and at peace with herself, both body and soul.

The film is suffused with classical music from the likes of Bach and Dvorak. It also features some of the most beautiful photography in any Godard film. However, it also comes with Godard's often groan-inducing humour. Witness the exasperated angel Gabriel trying literally to beat some sense into a horny Joseph as he gets overly amorous with his espoused. Or the child Jésus exploring under his mother's skirt while she gives hilarious names to the various parts of her anatomy (No prizes for what "la prairie" refers to). Or Marie's tongue-in-cheek reply, in the same scene, to her irritated husband who points out that the child is too old to be seeing his mother naked. Marie's quip "Quia respexit, Joseph," is a playful reference to the old Latin text of the Magnificat (My Soul Doth Magnify the Lord), whose third line goes "Quia respexit humilitatem ancillae suae" (For He hath regarded the low estate of His handmaiden). As little Jésus scampers off to play, he officiously announces, "I must tend to My Father's affairs." And later when Joseph worries about his absconded son, Marie replies laconically, "He'll be back... at Easter... or Trinity."

It is certainly irreverent but there is never malicious intent. In fact when considered carefully, it is a tender and salutary look at a figure many simply pay lip-service to as the "Mother-of-God".

New Yorker Video provide fairly good transfers for both films, both in 1.33:1 (Full Screen). I can't vouch for the original aspect ratio but visual composition looks generally alright. There were a few instances where the framing looked as if it had been cropped but it could be just coincidence. The print is clean and undamaged. The image is sharp with light natural grain throughout. Colours are strong and natural. Sound is in the original French 2.0 Stereo. English subtitles are optional but turned on by default. Extras include a fine 20-minute featurette "Notes About Hail Mary" on Godard's making of the film. It includes several scenes of Godard directing Myriem Roussel and gives us an idea of how he wanted to portray the young Mother-of-God - a combination of "La Pieta" and "La Strada". The film's theatrical trailer completes a fine overall DVD package.

Note: Although I liked the film overall and did not find it offensive, bear in mind that most Christians, both Catholic and Protestant, would. The late Pope John Paul II is quoted as saying: "Hail Mary deeply wounds the religious sentiments of believers." The usually generous film critic Roger Ebert gave it one of his rare 1-star ratings. Although Ebert tried to defend it on theological grounds, he was scathing in demolishing it artistically. Whether you find it offensive or not depends more on your tolerance and comfort level with issues of sexuality, nudity and irreverent humour, especially in relation to religious figures.
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Note: French with English subtitles.

Synopsis: The sun glides across the horizon on its unending journey from sunrise to sunset. A plane descends upon the modern, urban landscape carrying a female child and her Uncle Gabriel presumably sent on a mission of divine origin.

Meanwhile Mary tends the counter inside her Father's gas station, occasionally stepping outside to record the latest tallies registering on the pumps. Her boyfriend Joseph picks up the divinely sent messengers at the airport terminal and brings them to the meet his beloved never realizing who they are and what lies ahead for the young couple.

Critique: `Hail Mary' released in '85 is quite likely the most controversial film of the 20th century. Banned by the Catholic Church for its raw and sometimes scathing modern day depiction of the Virgin Mary, I believe this is a movie whose time has finally come and will soon be recognized as the classic it truly is. After listening to all the ranting and raving condemning this film you will surely be surprised, and I hope delighted, by what you experience when you finally watch it.

Myriem Roussel is perfect in the role of immaculate Mary. Her youthful, understated beauty provides the perfect combination of innocence and sensuality, appearing as a little lost girl in need of comfort one minute and a passionate woman in the mood for love the next. Thierry Rode in the role of Joseph doesn't quite rise to the level of Roussel but does deliver a strong though understated performance fully manifesting all the confusion, pain and unconsolable loss of a man forever forbidden to fully love the woman he marries.

Like most French films from the 80's `Hail Mary' is steeped in existential angst complete with Heideggerian "God Is Dead" philosophy and Darwinian "we are nothing more than slime in a pond" science. However this oppressive nihilistic atmosphere of life on the brink of annihilation and nothingness is subtly underscored by the possibility of something outside and beyond, something miraculous, maybe even divine. It's this juxtaposition of Theology and philosophy that gives this film its unique and cutting edge.

Director Jean-Luc Godard has provided us with an amazing exploration and retelling of the long revered New Testament account of the Annunciation, complete with intermittent breaks in action where the words "At That Time" appear on-screen as though dividing the visuals into chapter and verse.

Are some of the Catholic Churches concerns valid? Well, there is nudity and some very blunt dialogue that could understandably be perceived by the Vatican as blasphemous. From my personal perspective however I see those statements as honest penetrating questions consistent and pertinent to the interior dialogue within the heart and mind of Mary as she attempts to grasp the unfathomable mystery growing within her womb. Faith and acceptance is not always immediate or tasteful.

My Rating: 'Hail Mary' is a masterpiece in the genre of artistic, provocative, thoughtful and intelligent filmmaking. This is a film for the ages that receives an enthusiastic - 5 Stars-!
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on February 16, 2015
A masterpiece by Godard, which only recently the public at large can see. The film was considered heresy in many predominantly catholic countries and never shown. The american film The Last Temptation of Christ suffered a similar fate in the US, where theaters were equally threatened with violence. For a thorough analysis of those films quality, I will defer to experts. Suffice to say that happily in the West, we have chosen a rational path regarding controversial films rather than firebombing the theater or shooting the director.
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on March 25, 2015
In Hail Mary(1985) Godard has stripped away a lot of the theology and the clothes of the Biblical story and set it in modern Geneva. He has brought to this controversial film a lot of the enthusiasm and naivety of the 1st new wave to this 2nd wave effort. This is both richly textured by threads from both his 60s and 70s films,having multiple storylines that reflect both material and spiritual realms and abstract editing techniques. He organises scenes from two narratives. Hail Mary has characters and narrative. This alone makes it one of Godard's better films. The impulse of narration is driven by Mary(Roussel) a student who plays basket-ball and works in her father's petrol station. Her boyfriend Joseph(Rode) is a school drop-out who drives a cab. She becomes mysteriously pregnant while remaining a virgin, much to Joseph's irritability, being a young man with desires having courted her for 2 years. The angel Gabriel(Lacoste) arrives by plane to announce this and must school Joseph to accept Mary's pregnancy, while Mary comes to terms with God's plan through meditations that are sometimes angry and usually punctuated by elemental images of the sun, moon, clouds, flowers, and water. Godard intercuts a brief parallel story of a science teacher who believes human life came from extra-terrestrials whose affair with a student ends cynically.

We have 4 themes in this controversial film of 1985:1) the story of the Virgin Birth updated to modern times;2) that humans evolved from extra-terrestrials who seeded life here on earth; 3) the mystery of woman and human birth; 4)the nature of the soul and the body. The whole of nature is in concourse with the birth, the moon, the sun, the trees, water, quivering flowers, animals. Some feeling and yearning have worked their way back into the film via the dual nature of the story. Mary's narrative is aligned with the rhythm of the Earth, not onlyhelping us feel the passage of time, but also to imply that Mary's story has deep ties to nature. Godard is aware that Christianity and cinema are not grounded in historical truth but in the need to tell a story that says "now believe,whatever happens". Due to his lack of faith he needed a story `bigger' than himself. En ce temps la is a regular intertitle meaning `at this time': the divine story incarnated in time. The `pitiless universe' could be equated to Mary's womb.

The title is the greeting of the angel Gabriel to Mary when he announced she was going to bear Jesus.Hail Mary is the last gasp of cinematic Godard with a story and characters, tying the film down to the topical and tangible, even though Joseph and Mary are recognisable archetypes. His genius comes in the cutting of sound and image,the use of grandiose music appropriate for a religious epic,undercutting or interrupting it with dialogue,nature sounds and industrial clanging.He makes use of parallel stories to compare and contrast the spiritual and the material worlds. The Virgin Birth is presented as a reality - the mystery for Godard being womanhood and birth in general. This he explores through stunning images of nature and the nude figure of his heroine - the latter photographed chastely without voyeurism or sexism, after certain classic paintings.The film is not without comedy eg the young Jesus runs away from his dad on a picnic saying he's going to be with his "Father",and sensitively treats the subject with a great use of Dvorak and Bach.The spirit of the story fills the body of the film with new life. A prologue story(The Book of Mary) about change in a young girl's life whose parents are divorcing by Godard's partner sets the tone nicely. A real find.
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on May 21, 2015
I'm not at all sure what I just watched. The concept of a pregnant young girl claiming to be a virgin should invite endless biblical parallels, but Godard seemed completely disinterested in pursuing any of those avenues. It is more about the disconnect of this girl's thoughts and feelings to all of the male characters around her as she grapples with leaving childhood behind. Godard is once again toying with conventions of linear plot and unexpected dialogue and actions from a lead character. This one requires a lot of patience and a willingness to accept each scene as almost it's own separate film. It's a meandering and abstract experience if there ever was one. I'm not sure I "get it" or even if there is anything to "get." Perhaps I'll wait five years and give it one more try.
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on April 8, 2015
Great flick, one of godards best. Marine Rousseul is beautiful as Mary, as she takes on the role as a modern day virgin mother of Jesus Christ. Controversial indeed, banned by the pope and the Catholic church this film stands its ground as it ventures into the obvious pressures and responsibilities of telling such a story, such history is taken and molded like wet clay with fine experience and craft which comes with such a daring and odd filmmaker as the great Frenchman Swiss Godard. Watch, appreciate, struggle and persist, if you dare to consider yourself a thinker.
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on January 3, 2010
Jean-Luc Godard's Hail Mary ('Je vous salue, Marie')has the distinction of being one of the most controversial films of the late 20th Century. It was banned and boycotted and denounced by no less than the Pope himself but most of the film's most ardent critics hadn't even seen the film that they vilified. For what its worth Hail Mary is perhaps Gogard's most spiritual film and it can be quite lyrical as it attempts to tell the story of the Annunciation in a modern setting.

Mary (Myriem Roussel) is a normal but stunningly beautiful teenager: she plays on the basketball team at her school and lives with her father who owns a gas station. She desires a normal relationship with her boyfriend Joseph (Thierry Rode) but her life quickly goes out of control when she is met by two angels who inform her that she is pregnant. Mary, who is a virgin, has trouble accepting this fact as do the people around her. What follows is a meditation on both the divine and the human. Mary accepting the role she is given in contrast to a second couple who live for the carnal.

This second couple Eva (Anne Gautier) and her Professor/Lover (Johan Leysen) are involved in an extra marital affair that only leads to anguish. They are the opposite side of the coin from Mary and Joseph.

Godard uses the film to contrast pure love with love of the flesh and does quite a good job. So why only three stars? Godard's film moves at a glacial pace and his difficult philosophy is on display in its most brutal form. There are moments of complete confusion for the viewer as one tries to sort it all out.

The film has beautiful imagery courtesy of Godard cinematographers Jacques Firmann and Jean-Bernard Menoud with loving shots of the heavens and fields of flowers. The editing was done by Anne-Marie Miéville and while sometimes distracting serves the material quite well.

The standard definition disc by New Yorker provides the film and Anne-Marie Miéville's short The Book of Mary as an extra. Mieville's film is a natural addition as the film deals with the elements of change and acceptance but this time in a wholly secular setting of a child's reactionto her parent's separation.

This is one of those films that is worth seeking out but takes a great deal of patience to appreciate fully.
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on October 30, 2013
This is a great print but the film is a bit muddled -- Godard seems hypnotized Myriem Roussel though that's understandable.

The Mieville short is quite good and its worth owning for that alone.
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on July 30, 2014
great items presented,,fabulous transaction, HIGHLY RECOMMENDED A++++
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on February 12, 2013
My copy of the New Yorker Video DVD release did NOT contain english subtitles, as the Amazon description and even the back cover of the disk stated. Being New Yorker Video, it must have subtitles... previous reviews here say the disk has optional English subtitles turned on by default. But my copy had none, you couldn't even switch: the subtitle function on my player was blanked out, which means there is no subtitle file on the disk.

Very strange; perhaps I got an incorrectly-mastered copy. Could be a whole run of these bad copies floating around, dunno (New Yorker Video is out of business (unfortunately, they were a great place), so I can't ask them about this). Any body else experience this?

I really want to see this movie, and don't want the horrible knock-off VHS transfer-to-DVD that many previous reviews (from 2005) complain about. The New Yorker Video DVD is the only good DVD release made (plus it has Anne-Marie Mièville's short and Godard's "making of" too). I'll try ordering it again from a different seller, maybe his stock is from a different lot.
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