Hey folks, Harry here... One of the reasons that I was able to talk Mel Gibson into giving me THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST to screen at Butt-Numb-A-Thon, a film orgy of cosmic proportions, was because of the audience and the way I choose them. Specifically each year I get around 3000 applicants for Butt-Numb-A-Thon. This year I had everyone write a little essay on why they wanted to come, their favorite films, what they do and who they are. THEN - out of those 3000, I pick the 230 people that are the most in love with cinema, that most need the experience of what it is I'm putting together. That need to sit next to who I placed them next to. That are the people that never get chosen for anything, anywhere... or that have amazing luck all the time. The point is to pick, the perfect film going audience, that comes to this tiny theater to see their hopes and dreams. They don't know anything specific. I often say, "Money doesn't get you into Butt-Numb-A-Thon, faith does." That isn't a religious thing, it's about having faith enough in the programming to do what it takes to get in. Mel loved the idea that only the owner of the Alamo Drafthouse and I would know that he and the film would be coming. That the audience would have NO CLUE that they were seeing this. He loved the challenge of his film having to be the last film on an 24 hour period of great cinema. And he wasn't afraid to follow RETURN OF THE KING. Below you'll find two people that absolutely loved the film, but came to the movie from radically different backgrounds. 1st is Saffy. Saffy met her husband in the AICN Chat Room and now lives in Houston with two daughters and was raised Catholic, but could best be described as a lapsed Catholic in some ways. Here ya go...
I don’t normally write reviews. Personally, I don’t usually believe I can because I become so emotional and I lack a lot of technical knowledge about film. Sure, I can go on a diatribe about the importance of Bene-tint to the way they do make-up in period pieces, or how Lucidity foundation paired with cool colored lighting casts an ethereal glow on the skin…but who the hell wants to hear about that? Well OK. Besides me and the cast of Queer Eye.
There are first times for everything, and paired with the first time I am writing a review was the first time I truly got to see what my emotional response to a movie was actually worth. I am going to review The Passion.
The visual look to this film was one part silent movie, one part mystic awakening and one part nightmare. It places you where you need to be, immediately uncomfortable yet familiar enough to go on. Visually this movie stimulates emotionally like nothing out there right now. It creeps…it doesn’t flash in your eyes, it engulfs. The camera doesn’t just film Caviezel, its star. It embraces and caresses him. Even in his darkest hour he expresses such a sense of knowing. Not the typical righteous stoicism we see in the usual film portrayals of Jesus, but a deep sense of spiritual knowing. So that even if you don’t believe in “the Jesus Story,” you can believe that Jesus was someone who possessed an inner quality of peace and forgiveness.
The story takes the Passion (something that I am very familiar with, growing up catholic) and makes it something I could never imagine: it makes it real. We see Jesus’ humanity. That he liked to joke, that he loved his mother, and that he truly suffered. Those turned off by the sometimes pompous, judgmental, “fire and brimstone” vision of Jesus will be able to remove the man from the religion that has built up around his followers. We also see in this movie the pain of his mother, a woman who doesn’t see the supposed blasphemer or messiah, but sees her only son suffer and die. The movie gives a heart to the most unlikely characters, the Romans. We see so much in this move, the political motives for the crucifixion, the dire position people were put in and how this story HAD to enfold like it did. We also see a more female vision of Christianity. The women were the brave followers of Jesus in this film, and were not relegated to a few weeping biddies on the sidelines. They were the ones begging for Jesus, stepping in front of Roman soldiers to give him comfort, the ones weeping at the foot of the cross. Mary, the mother taken off a two dimensional iconic painting and given soul and strength; something movies AND religion have failed to do.
Taking on a movie about Jesus that isn’t pontificating and damning you for all eternity for not believing must’ve been a task unlike any other. No matter what Gibson does with this it is going to offend someone. It has even started to offend those who have never seen it. But guess what? He still did it and he did it majestically. This isn’t an “Onward Christian Soldiers” film. This was a film about a man who spread a message that was misunderstood, and about the people who loved him. The anti-semitism buzz about the film, well I have to address it because there are things that I can see might offend if you don’t step back and realize that almost everyone in the movie is Jewish, from the Pharisees who condemn, to the Pharisees who defend, the apostles who fought, and the man who bravely picked up the cross for Jesus and held him in his pain.
I don’t know how critical I can actually be about this movie because…I wept. It hit me like an emotional anvil and opened up and healed many battle scars I have had with my spiritual convictions. I remembered through this movie that it was all about love and it isn’t the message that turned me off so many years ago but the way the message was presented. The message has been resurrected, the movie made it move and breathe, it made it real yet divine. This is art in its highest form, and even though Mr Gibson claims it’s not finished, it was, in my mind, perfection.
P.S.- Mel Gibson is ICE COLD. I had him all pegged wrong. He is an artist and a DAMN COOL GUY. Keith Richards…oysters…England…PRICELESS!
Ok... so now we move on to Abstruse, here's a sometimes chatter in the AICN Chat that in his initial letter to me to get into BNAT - he bemoaned the fact that he lives in a town where the only theater is owned by a right-wing Christian couple that won't let films like KILL BILL VOL 1 play. That he's never seen a film with a truly great audience and how he wanted to see films that he would never otherwise see. Now I learn he's an atheist to boot... here ya go...
THE PASSION OF CHRIST. Okay, before I say anything else about this film, I want to say something. I am an atheist. I do not believe in god, Jesus, or the bible. I am not a Christian, I am not a Jew, I have no religion. I am also a card-carrying member of the ACLU and a supporter of the ARA (Anti-Racist Action, a youth-based anti-racism organization formed in a retaliation to the neo-nazi movement). I have no ill feelings toward any religion, belief, or race. My best friend is Catholic, my girlfriend is Baptist, my soon-to-be roommate is a Deist, one of my close friends is a Wiccan, and two of my ex-girlfriends are Jewish. When you read this review, remember all this.
The first thing I want to say about PASSION is that this is not a religious film. It’s a film. It’s an amazing, brilliant, incredible film. This is the film that everyone will be talking about in 2004. Unfortunately due to the press, they’re going to be talking about the wrong things.
So far, everyone has asked me if I liked this film. I did not like this film, but I did not dislike this film. I did not love this film, and I did not hate it. This film is beyond those type of descriptions. I cannot say I liked this film. But I can say this is probably one of the most important films – if not THE most important film – of this century so far. If anyone wants to make another grand film, this is going to be the yardstick it’s measured against.
This film is beautiful and ugly, epic and small. And this film is BRUTAL. Christians have turned the phrase “Jesus suffered for your sins” into a clichÃ©. It’s lost all meaning by now. This film does an amazing job of making you KNOW what that phrase means. The MPAA is going to come down on this film like a fucking hammer, but Gibson should show it unrated if they tell him to cut a single frame.
I can’t say this enough about this film. IT IS BRUTAL. There is no way make this clear without actually showing the film. This just cannot be described in words. You can’t call it violent, you can’t call it bloody. It is BRUTAL. That’s the only word. And it NEEDS to be brutal. It needs to make you squirm in your seat for an hour. It needs to make you want to scream at the screen for it to end. It HAS to do these things. If it doesn’t then you can’t understand the point of this film. This film has to transcend the human tolerance for violence and brutality to make its point. And it does. And it works perfectly.
Now, the version we saw of the film wasn’t complete. The score was temporary, some effects weren’t there, and it was a rough cut. Therefore, I’m hesitant to even mention the problems I have with this film as they are all things which will most likely be fixed before it makes it into theaters. The main problem I had at first was the score. The music in the first fifteen to twenty minutes of this film is distracting. Again, since this was probably a temporary sound mix, this problem may not exist in the final form as the music may be much more subdued. The music, however, is very appropriate to the time period of the film, and after those first scenes of the film, the music is great. The only other problem I have is that I feel that the film could be much tighter. Again, though, this was a rough cut, so I can’t say it’s a real problem because a rough cut isn’t supposed to be exceptionally tight as an edit.
My favorite character in this film is Pontius Pilate. You truly understand the position he was in. This was a man who was in charge of this situation, but didn’t want to be. He had a faction that was in power who called for man’s death, and a growing faction who that man led. If he sides with one, then the other will become violent. All he wanted to do was maintain the peace. So he tried to compromise many times. He tried to bribe the faction in power. He tried whatever he could. Finally, he was pushed to where it was either choose one side or the other, so he simply washed his hands of the whole incident. “It is not me who kills this man, but you.” He wanted that made clear. He wanted nothing to do with it, but they forced him into the situation. And it was beautiful.
This brings me to “the controversy”. “Is this film anti-Semitic?” I have one response to this statement. “Are you on crack?” I feel this film is less anti-Semitic than the bible is. Gibson showed the Jews not as a religion or a people, but as a political entity. These weren’t priests of their religion, these were politicians trying to hold onto their power. The only reason someone could call this film anti-Semitic is simply to stir up shit for no reason other than to stir up shit.
This film is amazing. It’s powerful. This film MUST been seen. It doesn’t matter what your religion is, this film is amazing. I just can’t express how important this film will become to cinema history. It doesn’t matter if you follow Jesus or Mohammad, Buddha or Moses, or no prophets at all like myself. This film has to be seen.
The Abstruse One, Jason Byrons