Marie (Myriem Roussel), a student, works at her father's Swiss gas station and plays basketball for a local team; she claims to be a virgin and maintains a chaste relationship with her boyfriend Joseph (Thierry Rode), a taxi cab driver, who is a dropout. When a passing stranger named Uncle Gabriel (Phillippe Lacoste) (who arrives by jet plane and is accompanied by a small girl who acts as his secretary) informs Marie that she will become pregnant despite remaining chaste, and give birth to the son of God, she is at first shocked and confused. Joseph, however, cannot believe that she is pregnant and a virgin. Gabriel must school Joseph to accept Mary's pregnancy, while Mary comes to terms with God's plan through meditations that are sometimes angry and usually punctuated by elemental images of the sun, moon, clouds, flowers, and water.
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Hail Mary's religious themes and scenes of full frontal nudity offended some Christians. Pope John Paul II criticized the film saying that it "deeply wounds the religious sentiments of believers." Protesters showed up at some theaters on opening night. The film had only 353,877 admissions in French movie theaters.
Hail Mary received mixed reviews, including one in the New York Times that characterized the film as "not especially provocative or entertaining", but also called it "an utterly serious attempt to examine the nature of relations between women and men and the possibility of profound friendships not based on sex. It's also about the demands of faith, which, in this time of cynicism, may be the most truly controversial aspect of the movie." Many other serious critics were more favourable: Time Out said "Composed like a brilliant mosaic, Godard's film gives fresh meaning to everyday images; makes us listen to Dvorak with renewed appreciation; and shows the female nude as though never filmed before." Channel 4 Film's critic wrote "The Virgin Birth is presented as a reality - the mystery for Godard being womanhood and birth in general. This he explores through stunning images of nature and the nude figure of his heroine - the latter photographed chastely without voyeurism or sexism, after certain classic paintings."
At the Cannes Film Festival a man unhappy with the film threw a shaving cream pie into Godard’s face, making international news. Under heavy criticism, Godard attempted to withdraw the film from Italy, but his distributor was unable to do so. He also claimed that the film is not about the Virgin Mary, but about "a young woman named Mary who, at a certain moment in her life, finds herself part of an exceptional event that she would never have wished for herself."Despite the initial heavy criticism, the film has also been praised for its beautiful camera shots.
Source : Wikipedia