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Monday, September 22, 2003

Greatest story ever sold.

Says Frank Rich — the New York Times critic whose dog Mel Gibson would like to kill, and whose intestines he would like "on a stick":

What makes the unfolding saga of "The Passion" hard to ignore is not so much Mr. Gibson's playacting fisticuffs but the extent to which his combative marketing taps into larger angers. The "Passion" fracas is happening not in a vacuum but in an increasingly divided America fighting a war that many on both sides see as a religious struggle. While Mr. Gibson may have thought he was making a biblical statement, his partisans are turning him into an ideological cause. . .

As the A.D.L.'s Rabbi Eugene Korn has said of Mr. Gibson to The Jewish Week, "He's playing off the conservative Christians against the liberal Christians, and the Jews against the Christian community in general."

So, is the movie anti-Semitic? One person who has seen the rough cut of the film that Gibson is showing by-invitation-only audiences told Rich: "[I]t's not a close call — the film clearly presents the Jews as the primary instigators of the crucifixion."

Mr. Gibson would argue that he is only being true to tradition, opting for scriptural literalism over loosey-goosey modern revisionism. But by his own account, he has based his movie on at least one revisionist source, a 19th-century stigmatic nun, Anne Catherine Emmerich, notable for her grotesque caricatures of Jews. To the extent that there can be any agreement about the facts of a story on which even the four Gospels don't agree, his movie is destined to be inaccurate. People magazine reports he didn't even get the depiction of the crucifixion itself or the language right ("The Passion" is in Latin, Aramaic and Hebrew, not the Greek believed to have been the lingua franca of its characters). Like any filmmaker, Mr. Gibson has selectively chosen his sources to convey his own point of view.

And, finally, this alarming reminder:

As for Mr. Gibson's own speech in this debate, it is often as dishonest as it is un-Christian. In the New Yorker article, he says that his father, Hutton Gibson, a prolific author on religious matters, "never denied the Holocaust"; the article's author, Peter J. Boyer, sanitizes the senior Gibson further by saying he called the Holocaust a "tragedy" in an interview he gave to the writer Christopher Noxon for a New York Times Magazine article published last March. Neither the word "tragedy" nor any synonym for it ever appeared in that Times article, and according to a full transcript of the interview that Mr. Noxon made available to me, Hutton Gibson said there was "no systematic extermination" of the Jews by Hitler, only "a deal where he was supposed to make it rough on them so they would all get out and migrate to Israel because they needed people there to fight the Arabs. . . ." (This is consistent with Hutton Gibson's public stands on the issue; he publishes a newsletter in which the word Holocaust appears in quotes.)

There's a lot more, of course, in Rich's ice cold response to the hot-headed director. Read it. ("The Greatest Story Ever Sold", New York Times 9.21.03, reg req'd)

Copyright © 2003 by Philocrites | Posted 22 September 2003 at 6:03 PM

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