Thursday, February 26, 2004

Busy busy day, then off to Cameron to see Duke play tonight, even if it snows, which it might...

8:13:49 AM    comment []

My experience of The Passion of the Christ begins with a cultural disconnect: still ads flash by onscreen as we wait for the movie, one saying "It's good to be Madonna," noting that Madonna (not the one we're about to see) spends $250,000 a year on with a quote from Ellen DeGeneres about changing people's minds...and one with a big pic of Janet Jackson (Miss Jackson if you're nasty....)

Alex McFarland welcomes the big crowd, cites Isaiah 53 ("it pleased the Lord to bruise him") as the answer to who really killed Jesus....

After an entertaining Tiger Woods-does-Caddyshack commercial for AmEx, no previews of coming attractions....the movie begins.

Notes on the movie:

It helps to have read the book. No stopping to explain who people are, or why they are doing what they do.

Mel Gibson knows how to make a movie. He's a pro. The money spent shows up onscreen. The Italian landscape subbing for Jerusalem looks great. The actors are compelling, although apparently they should have been speaking Greek, not Latin. Still, Gibson's decision to use subtitles works pretty well -- you understand clearly what's being said -- you know all the words anyway -- but there is a sense of watching something that you have dropped into, rather than something recreated for you. Like Peter Jackson in LOTR, Mel is a bit too sold on slo-mo as a means of conveying drama.

Mel Gibson is a grim dude. It's not the movie I would have made -- I'm more of a Sermon on the Mount guy -- and even if I'd focused on the Passion, I would have gone lighter on the gore. I think there is a post-9/11 vibe here, a Christianity besieged thing. But Gibson is hardly the first to fetishize the violence done to the Son of Man -- been to a good European museum lately?

The anguish and love of Mary come through beautifully.

Monica Bellucci does a fine job as Mary Magdelene, but it was hard to forget that she's Monica Bellucci. She's too pretty... is Jim Caviezel as Jesus (until he's covered with gore, which doesn't take long). Looks like an Italian painting, not much like anyone I ever knew at Temple Emanuel. He is something of a blank slate --  again, if you read the book, you imprint him with your own belief, so I imagine this blankness is intentional.

Mel goes a little heavy on the Jew-blaming. He doesn't make things up, but he stresses the bloodthirsty priest aspect while making Pilate a sympathetic weakling. On the other hand, the movie is also full of sympathetic Jews (Simon the Cyrene especially) and sadistic Romans. Power wielded corruptly, by the Pharisees, imperial Rome, the armored soldiers, leads to the death of Jesus.

It's hard to watch the Roman soldiers on patrol among the restive Semitic population without thinking of American solidiers in Iraq.

Satan is well done, snaky, evil. His consignment to the pit is quite satisfying and visually striking.

The audience reacted when Jesus was scourged and beaten and nailed to the cross. People gasped. The women next to me cried quietly. When the movie ended, the full house sat there, silent. It was clearly a profound experience for many of them.

Alex got up to talk, briefly, after the interminable credits. He stood in front of a huge picture of Janet Jackson and thanked us for coming, told us God loved us, and sent us home.

8:02:26 AM    comment []