Big Screen Berkeley: Fraud and faith are at the center of the Oscar-nominated ‘Corpus Christi’

‘Corpus Christi’. Photo courtesy Film Movement

Regular readers may recall that my favorite film of 2018 was The Captain, a historically-based drama about a German deserter masquerading as a Luftwaffe officer during the last weeks of the Second World War. The film was a remarkable depiction of someone in less than ideal circumstances making the most of an unexpected twist of fate.

Boze Cialo (Corpus Christi, opening at Landmark’s Shattuck Cinemas on Friday, March 6) treads similar ground and — while it lacks the startling power and verisimilitude of The Captain —  is still well worth seeing. The film was nominated for Best International Feature Film at this year’s Academy Awards but ultimately lost to Bong Joon Ho’s Parasite (and if you’re wondering: I didn’t see Parasite until late December; if I’d seen it sooner, it would have been in my 2019 top three).

Directed by Jan Komasa and written by Mateusz Pacewicz, Corpus Christi features newcomer Bartosz Bielenia as Daniel, a troubled young man paroled from juvenile hall and sent to work at a sawmill in a small Polish village. Leaving behind the threat of beatings (or worse) at the hands of giant thug Bonus (Mateusz Czwartosz), Daniel arrives in the village and senses an immediate opportunity when an elderly local priest is taken ill.

Taking the bull by the horns, Daniel instantaneously transforms himself into ‘Father Tomasz’ and begins tending to the villagers’ spiritual needs — of which there are many. A terrible car accident has left deep psychic and emotional scars, and Father T’s unconventional approaches to God and religion seem like the right tonic at the right time.


Bielenia is utterly compelling. Blessed with piercing ice-blue eyes, he’s able to don priestly vestments and convincingly transform from shaven-headed villain to heaven-sent savior in the blink of an eye. Even non-believers will be impressed.

‘Greed’. Photo courtesy Sony Classics

Also opening at the Shattuck on Friday, Greed promises more than it can deliver – but still provides an entertaining 104 minutes for fans of British comedian Steve Coogan.

Coogan is on top form as Sir Richard McCreadie (the clue is in the name!), a cutthroat British tycoon who’s made himself a fortune by asset-stripping clothing companies and marketing himself as a self-made billionaire. You won’t be surprised to learn that Sir Rich is utterly ruthless and completely immoral; it’s also clear his character is based on the less than upstanding real-life oligarch Sir Philip Green.

Written and directed by Michael Winterbottom – who has worked with Coogan on many occasions, including 24 Hour Party People (2002) and A Cock and Bull Story (2005) – Greed works best when it goes straight for laughs. There are a few points (most notably prior to the final credits) when it makes overt social commentary; these moments are surplus to requirements in a film that has already made its point clear via its monstrously asocial lead character.

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‘In Search of Voodoo’. Photo courtesy Pacific Film Archive

Finally, if your interest in voodoo was piqued by last week’s Zombi Child, Pacific Film Archive has the perfect companion piece. In Search of Voodoo: Roots to Heaven screens at PFA at 4 p.m. on Friday, March 6, and offers an African perspective on the religion. A personal project for Benin-born actor Djimon Hounsou, the film provides valuable context for those of us who grew up thinking voodoo involved sticking pins into dolls resembling people you don’t like.