Man Without Qualities

Monday, March 08, 2004

The Passion Of The Critics

I still haven't seen The Passion Of The Christ - a rather nasty cold has caused me to put off movie-going for a bit. From the ticket sales reports, I seem to be one of only dozens. Of course, the matter is made all the more complicated by the fact that there are quite clearly two entirely different movies now playing in theaters, both movies with exactly the same name. There is simply no other way to explain reviews such as these:

Frank Rich: With its laborious build-up to its orgasmic spurtings of blood and other bodily fluids, Mr. Gibson's film is constructed like nothing so much as a porn movie, replete with slo-mo climaxes and pounding music for the money shots. Of all the "Passion" critics, no one has nailed its artistic vision more precisely than Christopher Hitchens, who on "Hardball" called it a homoerotic "exercise in lurid sadomasochism" for those who "like seeing handsome young men stripped and flayed alive over a long period of time." .... What concerns me ... are those with leadership positions in the secular world - including those in the media - who have given Mr. Gibson, "The Passion" and its most incendiary hucksters a free pass for behavior that is unambiguously contrived to vilify Jews. Start with the movie itself. There is no question that it rewrites history ...

Mark Steyn: So, when metropolitan columnists say Mel's movie makes you want to go Jew-bashing, they're really engaging in a bit of displaced Christian-bashing. Ever since September 11, 2001, there has been a lame trope beloved of the smart set: Yes, these Muslim fundamentalists may be pretty extreme, but let's not forget all our Christian fundamentalists - the "home-grown Talibans," as the New York Times' Frank Rich called them, in the course of demanding that John Ashcroft, the attorney general, round them up. Two years on, if this thesis is going to hold up, these Christians really need to get off their fundamentalist butts and start killing more people. Critics berating Mr. Gibson for lingering on the physical flaying of Jesus would be more persuasive if they weren't all too desperately flogging their own dead horse of fundamentalist moral equivalence.

I have to admit to a certain queasiness when my eyes pass over some of Mr. Rich's comments, such as: Start with the movie itself. There is no question that it rewrites history. Do self-consciously "liberal" and "tolerant" people in 21st Century America now go around reading elliptical passages from the Bible and booming forth in print that there is no question as to what the passages mean and what the characters described in the passages were up to? Isn't that the kind of thing that Mr. Rich has often written makes him distrust religious and Biblical fundamentalists? It's not that I am incapable of believing that Mr. Rich - or even Mary Gordon, who may have certain copyright issues to work out with Mr. Rich regarding their respective Times essays - has received a divine revelation removing all question for him as to the true meaning of this critical portion of his Holy Book. No, no, not at all.

And what's with Mr. Rich's blathering about homoerotic porn? Even if he's right - and, again, I haven't seen the movie, so I'm not voicing a personal opinion now - since when has Frank Rich or anyone at the Times had a problem with homoerotic porn? Why here? Why now? Is Mr. Rich seeking to assume a mantle of some kind of Defender Of The Faith? Strange. Passing strange.

UPDATE: Lucas Morel

But which movie to see? Decisions, decisions.

Comments: Post a Comment