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from Jim Terr to Panama Red

Santa Fe, NM February 27, 2004

Panny - if you want to run my review of "The Passion of the Christ", feel free (attached); I'd be honored. Remove KUNM reference, of course...

I've got a two-word review for Mel Gibson's new movie, The Passion of the Christ:
Oy vey!

OK, to be fair, Mel is reportedly a devout Christian, and for those for whom the story of Jesus' betrayal, arrest, torture and execution have great meaning, evidently this film is a vivid, moving re-enactment. Although at the matinee showing I attended in Santa Fe, I did not observe the sobbing and stunned silence I had been led to expect, not even in my Christian friend who had asked me to accompany her to the movie. Interestingly, she said her own image and experience of Jesus is so personal, that she couldn't relate to the actor on-screen as Jesus at all.

For the rest of us, non-believers and lesser believers, for myself at least, the film was an unrelenting, mind-numbing, one-note sadism fest that went on about thirty times too long. I had seen four excellent films, all violent, in the preceding couple of weeks: Elephant, City of God, Bus 154 and Monster. So I don't mind violence in films when it's interesting, but The Passion of the Christ was just a nightmare come alive on screen - which I suppose was the intent.

As for the issue of the film stimulating anti-Semitism, my worst fears were not realized. I'm no biblical scholar, and I don't know whether the culpability of the Jewish priests was overplayed and Pontius Pilate's underplayed, as some have reported. In any case, it may be wishful thinking on my part, but I found the evil scheming of the Jewish priests, and their evil countenances, to be so caricatured, that it's hard to believe such an unrelateable portrayal would inflame anyone today.

Ours is not, after all, a society so unsophisticated that huge masses of people can be whipped up and misled by manipulative leaders with their own agendas...

I think the film's Oscar potential is limited by its heavy-handedness and its specialty-market appeal, and I was also slightly distracted by various credibility problems, like Jesus' mother appearing to be younger than he is, and Jesus' lumber appearing to have been machine-milled in Washington state. I also suspect that the Jewish priests wouldn't really have followed the bloodbath all the way up the hill and through the crucifixion, but that's just based on my own modern observation of politicians who like to keep a comfortable distance from the mayhem they create.

This brings me to my own novel theory of what Mel Gibson really had in mind here. Admittedly, I see almost everything in a political way, and the aspect of this story that interested me the most was how easily leaders could make - or allow - a cruel decision, without appearing to be responsible. I see parallels to modern-day schemers and frontmen directing an anxious society to easy targets, for appealing but implausible reasons. Like, say, Saddam Hussein, whom 60% of Americans still believe had something to do with 9-11, and was the most evil, threatening dictator in the world, compared to, uh...let's see... who are some of the others?

So maybe Mel Gibson is trying to help us understand our own times. But more likely, he's just reinforced the loyalty of the faithful, to those leaders most skilled at projecting strength, reverence and righteousness.

If the vivid suffering in this film causes viewers -- as it did me -- to think about the suffering that millions of people endure every day, and what more we can do to prevent it, then it will have done some wider good -- whether intended by the director or not.

For KUNM, this is Jim Terr.

( Jim Terr is a Santa Fe satirist and video producer, whose website is

From Panama Red to Jim Terr

Nashville, TN February 27, 2004

Ordinarily I'd be honored to run your review, especially seeing as how I myself have
apparently stopped writing forever.

Unfortunately many of my readers are indeed devout Zoroastrians or something, and there are a few Republicans thrown in there as well. Neither group is likely to catch the literary twist of the lips when it comes to that part about us being a sophisticated society...they'd probably just agree with you.

The "furor" over his movie is one that Mel has been manufacturing for over a year now...first he came out and said that he was gonna release the movie no matter how many obstacles people put in his a time when nobody had objected to (or even heard about) it at all.
Then last week I saw a full-page ad from the Jews for Jesus in the NY Times urging Mel to stay the course (they didn't really say "stay the course", of course, I'm just using a phrase that has recently gained currency, one which everyone understands to mean "keep on fucking up no matter what"). Of course the only people who see any controversy in yet another rendition of the greatest story ever told are those who've been told a controversy actually exists by Entertainment Tonight. And they're all on the side of the true believers...the rest of us couldn't care less.

The truth is that nobody really gives a ratsass about Mel's vision of the death of Christ and the birth of Christianity except...well, fundamentalist Christians, who like to paint themselves as still being oppressed and threatened by lions on every side even today when they are the most oppressive group on the planet.
Except maybe the Chinese government.
And the Taliban, I guess.
And of course the Nashville School Board.

Well, Mel cares, I guess, and his dad, the famous holocaust-denying, Catholic apologist/writer/scholar, cares too, and maybe Mel's Catholic wife and eight Catholic children. And, I suppose, the usual plethora of Jew-baiters and nigger-haters just waiting out there for something to be stirred up about. And this "controversial" film, released just in time for Easter I notice, is gonna put asses in the seats and that's what Entertainment is all about. But he ain't ever gonna top "Braveheart".

I must confess that I haven't seen the movie: my vow of poverty prevents me from going to the cinema unless Patty's in the flick. But I was struck by your reference to the "countenances" of the Jewish plotters. Did you mean they have, like, hooked noses and crafty leers and stuff like that? That Protocols of Zion stuff? If so, just seeing that might be worth the price of a ticket.

I saw a piece on 60 Minutes the other week about The Rapture: that predicted time when a very small group of fundamentalist Christians (i.e. those who actually believe in The Rapture, and Mel, being Catholic and not born again, will not be among them) are going to leave Earth and all its sinful fetters and go live with the Lord, leaving the rest of us down here in eternal torment. Dubya has claimed fellowship with this group. Will there be oil in Heaven?
Personally, I can't wait for The Rapture to occur: the sooner the snake-handlers and their used-car-salesmen prophets have shipped themselves off to hang out with Jesus the sooner we poor damned can get around to working on saving the planet unimpeded by the superstitions of old books. I do feel sorry for Jesus, though.

Meantime, just in case Mel's movie inflames some passions to the point of being incendiary this Passover, make sure you got that sheep's blood on your door lintel or wherever it is you people put it.

Yours in Christ