11 April 2009 | Bunuel1976
THE STORY OF JACOB AND Joseph (TV) (Michael Cacoyannis, 1974) ***
Several Bible-related TV films were made over the years, some by noted directors: for last year's Easter schedule, in fact, I had included Ermanno Olmi's GENESIS: THE CREATION AND THE FLOOD (1994) and Nicolas Roeg's SAMSON AND DELILAH (1996); incidentally, at the time, I also caught Joseph AND HIS BRETHREN (1960) – which, of course, tells of the same events (or, at least, the second half of it) as the film under review. This is pretty much straightforward stuff, not particularly inspired but certainly decent; as for myself, I vaguely recalled some of the passages depicted from Catechism classes I attended in my childhood – such as when Isaac's second-born, clean-shaven shepherd Jacob, dresses up in the hirsute guise of his sibling, the hunter Esau, in order that their dying father bless and relinquish the legacy of God's chosen people upon him instead (while the elder son is away expressly to prove his mettle required for this great task!). Jacob then goes into exile and starts his proverbial tribe – bearing 12 sons from 4 different women (2 sisters, who are also his own cousins, and their respective servant-girls!). I enjoyed the first part slightly more than the second – where we also got the services of a respectable cast (Harry Andrews as Isaac, Colleen Dewhurst as his wife, Keith Michell as Jacob, Julian Glover as Esau and Herschel Bernardi as the wily uncle). The latter stages – with Michell stepping into the background so as to allow Tony LoBianco as the favorite among his sons, the wise-man Joseph, to take center-stage – tread more familiar ground but remain watchable, despite the inherent low-budget and flat look associated with made-for-TV productions. Joseph is thrown into a well by his jealous brothers and sold to a band of wandering traders bound for Egypt, unaccountably rises to a position of Pharaoh's adviser and to where the Hebrews eventually assemble, until the advent of Moses. Here, too, one particular episode rang a bell – when LoBianco rejects the attentions of the slave-master's wife, thus incurring her wrath (in this respect, both she and the actress playing Jacob's preferred wife Rachel are quite attractive and, being foreigners, lend the proceedings the requisite exotic touch). For the record, this is the third film I have watched from director Cacoyannis: the others, while superior, were also closer to his own background – namely, ELECTRA (1962) and ZORBA THE Greek (1964).