Caught in the vortex of current French religious ferment is director Martin Scorsese, whose film, "The Last Temptation of Christ," has inspired firebombings, mass protests and general mayhem since it opened in France Sept. 28. In an interview on French television, Scorsese spoke out: "These acts of violence and brutality are absolutely gratuitous." Reacting to comments by Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger, archbishop of Paris, that the film was disrespectful, Scorsese said: "It absolutely does not surprise me that those who have not seen the film react like this. It is a regrettable misunderstanding." Meanwhile, French authorities have charged five men for last weekend's arson at the St. Michel theater, one of only two Paris cinemas showing the film.
JOHN VOLAND and STEVE WEINSTEIN Arts and entertainment reports from The Times, national and international news services and the nation's press
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