Marjoe

Film

Time Out says


MARTYR COMPLEX Gortner decides to leave the revivalist racket behind.

Obsessive fans of Me Decade cinema undoubtedly remember Marjoe Gortner, the handsomely hippyish actor whose filmography ran the gamut from seminal disaster flick (1974's Earthquake) to cult thriller (1979's When You Comin' Back, Red Ryder?). But before he became a minor movie star, Gortner was a major headliner on the Pentecostal preaching circuit, where he'd been doling out that ol' time religion since he was seven years old. He ended up blowing the whistle on the professional evangelist scene, by pulling back the curtain while a camera crew tagged along. What emerged was both an expos of those who fleece rubes in the name of Jeeeee-sus and a fascinating character study of a charismatic con man with a need to confess some sins of his own.

Amazingly, 36 years and countless Salvation Inc. scandals later, Marjoe hasn't lost its power as a documentary and a damnation. Cinema vrit doesn't get more absurd than a pulpit pounder who claims that "because I'm faithful, God has given me a Cadillac!" or more socially scabrous than preachers gleefully counting their earnings after a hard night's bilking. Even after he's renounced selling snake-oil redemption, you're never sure whether Gortner's celluloid exorcism is a genuine attempt to reform or a calculated calling card into the mainstream show-business arena he eventually entered. The actor's career may have peaked and puttered out in the '70s, but this look at the business of religious exploitation still feels vital. (Opens Fri; IFC Center.)—David Fear

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