A woman (Job, Everyman, or Adam/Eve, though she plays another rather more narrow character in this multiple/simultaneous role) suffers the slings and arrows of a cold vicious cosmos at the center of a hot barren desert. Ouch!, it hurts, it REALLY hurts!! Trust me on this..... she gets walloped! Including the worst pain a mother could endure.
Greaser (Caesar) as absolute despot, runs the world in small, a dot on the map in the middle of this desert. He is inhumanly patient, ruthless, vicious, gleeful, cruel, capricious, and whimsical. Over the course of the film he personifies welds of any two of these traits. He has an entourage of minions, lackeys, and wannabes. They perform his bidding without question. The balance of the town residents have no power, but are at the complete mercy of Greaser (standing in not only for Caesar, ruler of the known world, but also personifying the indifferent, uncaring world and cosmos). But he has the worst case of constipation the world has ever seen. For all his power, and all the aid of the Mariachi brothers, and the shining love of his own mother who he keeps in a cage, - he can't make.
People go about their business as best they can, - with many rather bizarre distractions. There is a transvestite nun, or the ugliest female nun ever imagined (taking THAT bromide to its extreme logical conclusion, one quite ridiculous, but somehow fitting in this picture). A rancher has vaguely necrophilic fantasies regarding the local First Peoples. Christ Jesus turns out to be a rather exceptional chiropractor. Our female heroine keeps getting kicked in the teeth, again and again, - and again for good measure. She seems stuck in the Old Testament. Greaser's perenially disappointing son, Lamy Homo, also gets this treatment at the hands of his own father. The sins of the fathers visited upon their sons, the errors of history repeating themselves from generation to generation. An old coot in a white dress nicknamed Petunia, but who's real name is Luci(fer) tempts our other protagonist, Jesse, who although is technically not a criminal, is treated as one. A guy in a Charlie Brown ghost sheet with two round black eyes cut out protests that his role is too small. A little game of chance takes forever.......
That same Jesse arrives earlier in the film via an extreme wide establishing shot of a conestoga wagon rambling, creaking, and rumbling as it crawls across the desert plain. Just as it passes, - and the scene is sedate since there's nothing else happening,- Jesse arrives in the Old West from the top of the frame via a giant parachute, hits ground, dusts off his Zoot-suit, and unsurely gains some footing with some shuffling dance steps. He continues this perfect if uncertain timing over the plain, seeking..... something.
He finds "the agent Morris", a poor excuse for John the Baptist in any century, who also sees other futures, since he seems to wish to protect his head by wearing a space helmet.
In bemused/focused reverie, Jesse performs numerous miracles for the townsfolk;some of whom become cloyingly annoying. And for this receives the attention, and the rare(unique)if unspoken admiration of Greaser. He appears on Greaser's stage, to be approved or rejected by the audience. The female lead (Adam/Eve/Job/Everyman) takes on perhaps her most significant role as that of Judas.
Long before the pointlessly cryptic DaVinci Code (an insult to both Catholicism, the whole of Christendom AND Leonardo DaVinci, not to mention the likely intelligence of any typically well-read history buff; and again another Hollywood flick filmed in MurkyVision!) - Downy Sr. presents the "fact" of the act between Jesse and Mary Magdeline; oddly, for a film so apparently zongo and off-center, the only major departure from general Christian orthodoxy. A bad one at that, but well,it was the 70s, it was spring, we were young.....
The quietest scene in the entire film is perhaps the most powerful, - where Jesse is chastened by His Father - "You... get... going!!!", played by a perfectly cast, cloud-white bushy-haired, bushy-bearded, Amish-looking grandfather. All in the midst of spectacularly gory and absurd carnage. Sounds like the world to me.
Despite all the couching in absurdest non-linear plotting, extreme violence SEEMING to be merely lurid and gratuitous, and the many bizarre characters and subplots to nowhere, this is really a very gripping, awesome, violent, fabulous, eye-catching, mind-catching, amusing, hilarious in places, and ultimately heart-rendering re-telling of the Passion of Christ. (NOT the second coming as this or that reviewer has stated.) There are two other scenes which vie with the Father/Son meeting for most powerful/compelling/affecting sequences in the film. I omit their descriptions to provide motive for your unfilled spare time.
Repectfully, Larry Hiam