Monday, July 25, 2011

What it means to be a boy / What it means to be a Man.

I said that I was done, but I'm not done. I'm just frustrated that the conversation is less about aspects of the film and more about the peripheral context of the film. I don't write anything below that really changes that focus. I may need to re-watch this one.

Mel Gibson is an auteur. He has a strong and distinctive visual sense. He knows how to craft a film. He repeatedly explores (through his acting as well as his directing) the themes that matter to him.

Do I only care about Passion because it's directed by Mel Gibson? That's like asking if Jeff only likes Annie Hall because it's directed by Woody Allen.

The two things, director and movie, often cannot be separated. Of course, I only care about Passion because it was made by Gibson. Because Gibson knows how to make good films. No one else could have or would have made the same movie. It's as distinctively Gibson's work as Annie Hall is distinctively Allen's.

I just think that it's absolutely ludicrous to suggest that a talentless hack could have been behind this film.

Also, saying that there is "no other appeal" to the film is just wrong. The film is interesting in the context of Gibson's person and career, but it is also fascinating on its own and would be even if some unknown up-and-coming indie director had made the exact same film. The film is visually sophisticated and interacts with 2000 years of Christian art, 100 years of filmic representations of Christ, action movies, and man-on-a-mission movies as well as blazing boldly into the "torture porn" frontier.

I haven't addressed Jeff's reported concern about the film as Religious Propaganda, but I'll briefly assert that the film is less guilty here than, say, Midnight in Paris is guilty of Nostalgia Propaganda. Each film is going to necessarily have a viewpoint. The Passion of the Christ has one. Gibson opens the film with, "By his stripes we are healed." Then, he goes on to obsessively detail each "stripe.". I just don't see how this is any more propagandistic than any other film. It was co-opted by nutty church groups, but it wasn't really intended as a simplistic commercial for Jesus any more than Allen was making a commercial for nostalgia or Malick was making a commercial for life, as one recent critic put it. Allen did not set out with the purpose to make money for antique dealers. It would be weird if antique dealers bussed people in to see Midnight in Paris, but you really couldn't fault Allen for this if it happened.

Passion of the Christ is not a Propaganda Film. It is a meditative work of art.

Okay, I'm starting to convince myself to re-watch this film.

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