Friday, January 30, 2004

Talk About the Passion

Give Mel Gibson credit. He's made a religious movie--in Aramaic, no less--that has been one of the most buzzed about films for months. But Mel, it's time to give the self-persecution stuff a rest.

The fourth item finds Gibson stating he may never work again because THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST could kill his career. I find that to be highly doubtful even if the anti-Semitic rumors flying around THE PASSION turn out to be perceived by many. Gibson is still one of Hollywood's most bankable stars.

I think it will be difficult to discern if the rumors are "true". Like many things, anti-Semitism can be in the eye of the beholder, especially since, in this case, I expect the disagreement is going to come in terms of interpretation and the degree of intensity with which Gibson states those beliefs. Gibson has been on the defensive, a tactic necessary largely because THE PASSION has been screened only for those friendly to his viewpoint. It's been a good way of stirring up publicity and interest, but the strategy has also allowed concerns and charges to mount against the film, as if not showing it to Jewish leaders or film critics means he has something to hide.

It is impossible for me to have an opinion on the matter because I haven't seen the film; however, I do feel certain on three issues surrounding the film. First, I believe Gibson has made the film he wanted to make. He put up his own money and made less commercially appealing choices. Whatever the end result, I don't think there is any doubt that THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST is his vision.

Second, by showing the film to religious and politically friendly audiences, Gibson has rallied them to promote his film as a tool for witnessing. I think he's sincere in his desire to use the film in that manner.

Third, the controversy is more than he could have hoped for. Almost every day there's a new item or quote about the film. The controversy is helping the future box office, not hindering it. One thing our culture supports at practically every turn is that it doesn't matter what you've done or how notorious you are as long as it makes money. THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST seems poised to make a financial splash--it's the film I'm asked about the most--and that's not going to end Gibson's career.

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