Subversive Art #2:
Is God Dead? (Artist Unknown)


Though probably not conceived as a work of art by its unknown creator -- or as anything other than something to sell magazines -- the rather arresting cover of Time's April 8, 1966, issue briefly stopped people in their tracks by boldly, starkly posing a question heretofore buried deep in the subconscious of American life; one that slowly began rising into view as that vividly nihilistic decade unfolded in all its cumulative ugliness. It was a powerful image; a primal shock of utter simplicity that many works of art in its time, even those specifically intended to provoke the larger society, often failed to achieve.

5 comments:

Ivan G. said...

Oh, I agree with this assessment 100%. I think it's most effective in Rosemary's Baby.

The irony is that now Time has featured a big honkin' number of magazine covers trumpeting religion and Christianity. (I had a link to this, but I lost it.)

Tom Sutpen said...

I'd forgotten about its appearance in Polanski's film, but you're quite right; he would have had to invent a cover like that if 'Time' hadn't published it alread. In fact, I'd go so far as to say (this is speculation) that a main reason for setting his film in the not-distant past of 1965-66 was to include such elements as that cover and Pope Paul's speaking gig at Yankee Stadium.

The recent proliferation of religious news-magazine covers has, I believe, more to do with the power a box-office success such as "The Passion of the Christ" (a truly deranged movie, by the way) can wield, rather than a sharp rise in Christianity among Americans. When a movie is a big enough hit, it bleeds into all other areas of American culture; something comparatively rare to disciplines other than film.

swac said...

I still like my idea of a film noir approach to Christ's final days, sort of like Anthony Mann's and John Alton's take on the French Revolution in The Reign of Terror a.k.a. The Black Book. We've had the musical (Webber's J.C.S.), neo-realism (Gospel According to St. Matthew) and Fangoria (Mel's Passion), why not noir? There's your doomed hero, an oppressive system, a femme fatale, Peter Lorre as Judas...and who needs cross symbolism when you've got a real cross?

Tom Sutpen said...

Stephen wrote:

I still like my idea of a film noir approach to Christ's final days, sort of like Anthony Mann's and John Alton's take on the French Revolution in The Reign of Terror a.k.a. The Black Book. We've had the musical (Webber's J.C.S.), neo-realism (Gospel According to St. Matthew) and Fangoria (Mel's Passion), why not noir? There's your doomed hero, an oppressive system, a femme fatale, Peter Lorre as Judas...and who needs cross symbolism when you've got a real cross?

*****
It's been a long time since I've seen it, but except for Lorre, doesn't this kinda resemble "The Last Temptation of Christ"? I know that film's in living color, but all them noirish dimensions are there more or less.

This reminds me. When in fuck's sake is "Reign of Terror" gonna get a DVD release, wouldja tell me that?

swac said...

Tom wrote:

It's been a long time since I've seen it, but except for Lorre, doesn't this kinda resemble "The Last Temptation of Christ"? I know that film's in living color, but all them noirish dimensions are there more or less.

******

I thought of that...it's definitely in there, along with the usual Michael Powell-isms and maybe even a touch of Val Lewton here and there...and Judas with a New York accent makes as much sense as a Peter Lorre version. It's probably as close as we're going to get.

*****

This reminds me. When in fuck's sake is "Reign of Terror" gonna get a DVD release, wouldja tell me that?

*****

There is a DVD of it available from bargain bin scroungers Alpha Video...they're famously inconsistent in their transfers, but in a few instances they're the only game in town (like the beatnik murder mystery The Bloody Brood, with a young Peter Falk).