Just Above Sunset
March 28, 2004 - Mel Will Not Go Away

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  • Why We Are All Wrong About Mel Gibson
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  • Algernon Charles Swinburne, Spanking Fetishes and Jesus

See Has ‘The Passion’ caused miracles?
Jeannette Walls with Ashley Pearson, MSNBC “The Scoop”, Updated: 2:45 a.m. ET March 25, 2004

Well, here’s the scoop -


Some fans of “The Passion of the Christ” claim that the Mel Gibson flick has caused miracles — and now a documentary is in the works to prove it. 

Makers of “Changed Lives: Miracles of the Passion” have been interviewing people who say their lives were turned around after they watched the flick.  An online solicitation sent to would-be subjects of the film gives examples of the sort of “miracles” the filmmakers are looking for: “a marriage being rescued, an addict who was set free, a Jew who now accepts Jesus as Messiah, someone who experienced physical or emotional healing, and so on.”

A website describing the documentary suggests recording video testimony this way: “Looking right into the camera the entire time, begin speaking as if you’re telling your story to a good friend who does not know Jesus and you REALLY want him or her to see the film and be changed like you!”

“We have gone to Web sites where there are in excess of 70,000 stories about how people were touched by this film, so we have plenty to choose from,” Executive Producer Jody Eldred tells The Scoop.  The documentary isn’t affiliated with Mel Gibson’s Icon Productions, says Eldred, but he has been working closely with Icon.  “They’ve seen the trailer.  They think it’s a cool thing.  We have their blessings.”


I’m not sure what to say. 

Since Mel belongs to a dissident Catholic sect that believes everything the Catholic Church has done since the mid-sixties, particularly absolving the Jews from the murder of Jesus and dropping Latin in the mass, I don’t suppose he is eligible for beatification.  Too bad. 

Well, the French see it all differently.


Here’s a note from France regarding Hollywood.   Mel is not welcome in Paris?


This from the Hollywood Reporter - that’s the trade newspaper out here, not me.  And they are somehow associated with Reuters.  I am not. 

See French theater chain labels Mel's film "fascist"
Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Here’s the deal. 


PARIS (Hollywood Reporter) - One of France's leading independent cinema groups has refused to program Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ," which it has branded "fascist propaganda."

"I refused to program the film in my network of theaters," MK2 president Marin Karmitz said in a written statement forwarded to The Hollywood Reporter.  "I have always fought against fascism, notably through my exhibition activity.  For me, 'Passion' is a film of fascist propaganda."

Karmitz's MK2, which also is involved in film distribution, runs one of Paris' leading art house circuits with 58 screens across 10 cinemas.


Well that’s not nice. 

We are told that Mel’s film is to be released March 31 in France by Quinta Distribution, the new firm of Franco-Tunisian producer Tarak Ben Ammar.  Ben Ammar's Paris office declined comment on Karmitz's view of the film. 

We are also told that Karmitz, also president of the French Federation of Distributors, said Gibson's movie turns "violence and barbarity into a spectacle.  For two hours, you see a man being tortured, nothing else." And it seems he goes on to say that the movie is revisionist in the way history is portrayed, with the sound of blows and cries displacing speech. 

Finally we get this.  "Lastly, given the representation of the Jews, anti-Semitism is the third element of this fascist ideology.  But in America, the Jewish lobbies made a mistake by basing the debate solely on this point."

Finally we learn that Karmitz thinks it’s actually okay that Mel’s film will be shown in France.  He thinks people should think about it.  "Because, behind this 'Passion' .  .  .  you can glimpse a whole internationale of religious fundamentalism, a martyrology based on violence, contempt for the body and hatred for the human element."

But the idea is to let this Franco-Tunisian fellow release it to his theaters.  Karmitz won’t touch it. 

Oh my. 

Now this last weekend Mel’s film was finally displaced from the top of the box office receipts list – for the first time in weeks it’s no longer number one.  “Dawn of the Dead,” a remake of George Romero's 1978 film, grabbed the top slot - $27.3 million worth of tickets, according to studio estimates issued on Sunday.  That’s about twice what Mel’s film took in.  As you might know, like the first version, “Dawn of the Dead,” is set largely in a deserted shopping mall where a small group of frightened but really nice folks must defend themselves from masses of bloodthirsty subhumans infected by a mysterious virus.  It’s kind of a companion piece to Mel’s film, without the Jews.  You got the crucifixion.  Now you get the resurrection, sort of.

Will Karmitz distribute this second film, V.O., in France?  No word on that.


Of course, my acerbic friend in Paris, Emma, had to comment…


MK2 could probably do with some extra money in the coffers and free publicity so Karmitz has probably done the right thing for his company if he thinks this is the trick - not to show Passion…  though considering some of the other films they have shown in the last few years at MK2 salles whilst I have been in France I think Karmitz is probably an old blowhard.


As for the film Passion, I really do think Mel is "two sandwiches short of a picnic" and should be locked away with all other religious fanatics of one kind or another.  The world would be a better place without religion in all its entirety - ,mand this comes from a part-timing Scottish protestant!


Ah, it’s all marketing, one way or the other.


My friend Ric Erickson of MetropoleParis says this:


Gibson's 'Passion' opens here on Wed 31. March, according to

posters that have suddenly sprung up.  For this, I will watch the

reviews closely.


Next week we’ll see what he finds.


Over at Figaro Magazine this weekend there’s already a whole raft of stuff – 

Mercredi 31 mars sort sur les écrans le film de Mel Gibson, «la Passion du Christ».  Et les réalisateurs Prieur et Mordillat s'interrogent, dans une émission d'Arte, sur les origines du christianisme.  Deux mille ans après, Jésus-Christ fait toujours scandale. ... 

·    Mel Gibson : une violence au service de la foi

·    Deux mille ans d'exégèse : ce que l'on sait de Jésus

·    Comment est né le christianisme ?

·    Le Christ et l'art : un Dieu à visage humain


You get the idea…  The network Arte does a special, and the madness begins…


Over at Le Nouvel Observateur you get this - Jésus et les juifs


·    Il a suffi d’un film, une sorte de « Mad Max » sur la croix, et de son triomphe ambigu aux Etats-Unis pour que surgissent à nouveau des démons que l’on ...

·    L’Evangile selon saint Mel

·    L’Eglise et les juifs

·    Jésus au regard de son peuple

·    La figure de Jésus

·    Le cas Judas



Of course, over the New York Review of Books Garry Wills has some really interesting things to say.


See God in the Hands of Angry Sinners for that.


Wills seems to be reviewing two things - The Passion of the Christ, this a film directed by Mel Gibson.  And he has lots to say about Vows of Silence: The Abuse of Power in the Papacy of John Paul II by Jason Berry and Gerald Renner (Free Press, 353 pages).


On the film?


If you relish the sight of a healthy male body being systematically demolished, beyond the farthest reach of plausible endurance, The Passion of the Christ is your movie.  It is not simply the scourging scene that is at issue, though that deals out an unspecified number of stripes—more than sixty and still counting, half of them inflicted by whips that have been made into multiple-hook tearing instruments.  Even earlier, at the arrest of Jesus, he is chained, beaten over and over, thrown off a bridge to crash below. He arrives at his first legal hearing already mauled and with one eye closed behind swollen bruises.  From then on, he is never moved or stopped without spontaneous blows and kicks and shoves from all kinds of bystanders wanting to get in on the fun.  On the way to execution, he is whipped while fainting under the cross.  A soldier says to lay off or he'll never make it.  But the crowd just keeps whipping and beating him all the rest of the way.


My wife and I had to stop glancing furtively at each other for fear we would burst out laughing.  It had gone beyond sadism into the comic surreal, like an apocalyptic version of Swinburne's The Whipping Papers.


Swinburne?  Algernon Charles Swinburne (1837-1909) – that guy?  Cool.  Swinburne was an odd duck.  Well, there seems to be a small percentage of British men who liked being spanked.  These blokes find it arousing.  Funny, I never thought of Mel Gibson like that, but that works.  Actually, it makes everything fall into place, doesn’t it?


But back to religion, not the odd sexual yearnings of Algernon and his friends. 


Wills adds this, wondering just how this film gets people all hot for Christianity -


In Gibson's film the union of the divine and human in Jesus is not explored or explicated.  He is just a sponge for punishment.  Which makes one wonder why so many call their viewing of the film a conversion experience.  From what, or to what, are they being converted?  From Christianity to philoflagellationism?  Some fear that the real conversion will be to anti-Semitism, but Gibson says that he cannot be anti-Semitic because he killed Christ himself.  All sinners did.  To emphasize the point, he publicized that the hand in the film holding the first nail driven into Christ's palm is Gibson's own.


But as we sinners watch the killers in this movie—the insane glee of those plotting against Jesus, lying about him, beating him, demanding his death, inflicting his death—do we really feel that they are our surrogates?  We might, because of our sins, feel that we should empathize with them, but we cannot actually do so—the manipulation of the situation does not allow for that.  With whom, then, are we to empathize—with Jesus, not so much because of our being saved by him as by our undergoing pain and humiliation with him? 


Certainly Gibson feels that empathy. He told Rachel Abramowitz of the Los Angeles Times: "I'm subjected to religious persecution, persecution as an artist, persecution as an American, persecution as a man.”


Oh heck, you can hear Mel asking to have his naked, quivering ass slapped one more time in public, can’t you?  He longs for it.


I don’t get it, but many of us are into other things.  Who are we to judge?


The rest of the Wills item reviews Catholic theological history and how Gibson comes from an odd offshoot of Catholicism.  Click on the link for everything you ever wanted to know about The Legion of Christ and Opus Dei and their relationship to Vatican II and Gibson, and Gibson’s father’s views on all that. 


Or don’t.  It’s rather complex.


But I live in Hollywood.  Now and then you run into celebrities.  Should I see Mel at Beverly Center or down on Sunset Plaza, and he has an odd gleam in his eye, I’ll cross to the other side of the street.  I’ll think of Algernon Charles Swinburne and steer clear.


Copyright © 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
The inclusion of any text from others is quotation
for the purpose of illustration and commentary,
as permitted by the fair use doctrine of U.S. copyright law. 
See the Details page for the relevant citation.

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Paris readers add nine hours....