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Film Reviews

NZIFF Film Review: Jesus Shows You the Way to the Highway (2019)

Etienne McNeill
Jesus Shows You the Way to the Highway Official Trailer

Jesus Shows You the Way to the Highway is the second feature film for director Miguel Llansó and appears in the New Zealand International Film Festival which premieres tomorrow, Sunday 26 July.  Click HERE for another film trailer.

This film is the Wild Card of the Festival.  An absurdist spy comedy about a CIA operative going into another dimension to battle with the Soviets. This is the very basic narrative around which revolves a series of happenings and the 'normal amount of martial arts'.  And then there is the strange man in a Batman costume claiming to be the president. It seems to be something of a pastiche of 70’s television and is indeed loosely based in the ’70s. Music by visionary free jazz composer Bill Dixon added to the wild jumble.  

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Jesus...Highway was amusing in its pure absurdity but in my opinion, it was lacking in vision and wit. A scrambled assemblage with all the hallmarks of post-modern surrealism and with a weak script to boot. It seemed to be satirising something - but, what? It was such a sensory bric-a-brac of stylisations thrown around with no real didactic centre.  One could say it was a satire of a satire ... or something like that, but who would use such a half-baked academic term? I sense the influences of Jodorowsky and Lynch: visionary auteurs of the surreal, whose legacy this film, unfortunately, cannot live up to. 

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It appears to me that great avant-garde work broke down linear narrative structures and introduced archetypal sensory juxtapositions. This seemed to be in order to disorientate the viewer into a sort of dream-state where-in the activity of the psyche creates a raw feeling. Through inverting the reality principle, great surrealist films could coax us into dream-think, allowing viewers to access untapped emotion and creativity. This film simply does not do that.

Maybe I missed the point, but it seemed like if ever there was a point or an initial creative groundwork for this film, it must have gotten lost along the way. Which is fine, because a piece of art is a piece of art, and it doesn’t necessarily have to be subject to our endless, needling interpretations and criteria of worth. 

To sum up, what I got out of this film was, at most, a sort of empty amusement. And, initially annoyance! I think I saw what it was attempting to do in the first five minutes ....  and decided it had failed its artistic aims. I guess it’s a case of first thought best thought because I still stand by that thought having finished the film. 

NZIFF 2020 - Watch Jesus Shows You the Way to the Highway HERE

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Written By: Etienne McNeill Etienne has a passion for music and bands that sees him frequenting the indie gig scene in Auckland. He writes original music material of his own and has an ever-expanding vinyl collection. He works for Real Groovy Records.