Saturday, October 08, 2005

More Passionate Dialogue

This entry begins in continuation from

Matt: I'm not following. Do you mean the Passion is reenacted in the Mass? Or that you know of actual Passion Plays being played?

Our parish (St Catherine's of Sienna) growing up used to enact the stations of the cross each year at Easter. They also had dramatic readings by parishiners of the trial of Christ. Eventually the congregation was encouraged to join in at times with, "We have no king but Caesar," "Crucify Him! Crucify Him!," etc. For a small Catholic congregation it was quite a spectacle--replete with kettle drums and a guy who REALLY looked like Jesus.

I laud Mel for his efforts in verisimilitude, but that is deceiving since much of his inspiration is from extra-scriptural writings (visions of medieval Saints, medieval drama, etc). At times it is a wonderful and moving film, in the Gibson-esque fasion.

I agree, however, that metaphors or allegory of the Passion are more powerful than a Hollywood-style documentary such as "The Passion of the Christ."

As far as "Love Actually" goes I don't recall it as a metaphor of the Passion--can you elaborate?

Great films employ visual metaphor and symbolism. Last night I saw "Crash" for the first time. It's contribution to the dialogue of racism was, at best, on the intellectual level of a freshman undergraduate. What is powerful about the film is when humanity suddenly becomes connected. When the atrocious deeds of humans are reckoned according to the community--we ARE our brother's keeper. Apart from cultural and skin differences we are united in humanity.

Such is the case when the latino girl saves her father's life. One wonders if this is a case of deus ex machina, (or mere magical realism) but it is rather a playful irony--at this moment we understand that blanks replaced bullets in the Persain's firearm and at once both daughters are rendered angels. Similarly, Don Cheadle, while the actual guardian angel of the city and of his mother goes unrecognized by either.

I'm still trying to reconcile the symbolic meaning behind the two burning cars, nonetheless, the filmmaker at the very least employs visual symbolism.

Metaphor, symbolism, what have you, is the power behind "Sideways" as well. I would enjoy any film with Paul Giamatti, but this film becomes more than merely another thirty-something film when Miles is connected with the wine itself--a new, fresh metaphor for humans indeed. Furthermore, his old college roomate as a character is only repulsive and shallow when he is foiled with Miles--they are two sides of the same coin--like Marlow and Kurtz of Conrad's "Heart of Darkness."


Blogger mickrect said...

Not sure what happened at the beginning of the entry:

this entry begins as a continuation of an entry poted on Bob's blog:

9:08 AM  
Blogger lucas said...

i'm a little lost (maybe i'm too drunk?), but i think i agree with most of what you've said.

some general thoughts:

"The Passion" felt to me like i was watching a new form of S&M porn, only without the sex. i found it distasteful in nearly every way and have no desire to ever see it again. i found it irresponsible and violent for no good reason, and still have trouble believing it was NC-17.

that being said, i laud mel for getting it made the way he wanted w/ his own money.

while the ideas presented in parts of 'crash' were a bit sophomoric, it's remarkable in the fact that for a hollywood film, it's very sage. it excited me to realize that someone inside the system was still making these films that dealt with these issues. i need to see it again to catch some of the symbolism, et al.

paul giamatti is awesome.

and now, back to my regularly scheduled drinking...

12:36 AM  
Blogger mattreed said...

Someone once said that the Renaissance was good for art, but bad for religion. It's not like the religious artists of late antiquity had never heard of or seen artistic realism, or were so stupid they handle realism. Early Christian art was created in its style for a purpose. Art can be an end in itself, but religious art can, must, only be a means. As soon as it becomes an end, it either ceases to be religious art or it becomes an idol.

Full Disclosure: I didn't see mel's picture because I don't care for violent movies and at the time of its release I was feeling particularly anti-consumerist (also, if evangelicals like something than I tend to distrust it, for better or for worse).

Still, I think that the problem isn't so much in the content as in the form. A realistic Hollywood movie is not the correct medium. One of the nice things about passion plays during Mass (which is what I meant in my comment) is that they are participatory, as in the "Crucify Him" you mentioned. There are some things drama can do that films can't do, just as film can do many things drama can't do. Film tends to put us in a voyeuristic position, which is why I think the realism that mel was aiming for wasn't particularly helpful.

Anyway, I think any film adaptation was bound to be an interpretation so I wouldn't mind that he used extra-scriptural writings. It would have been even more misleading, probably, if he just did from his vision of what he read in the Bible.

PS The Love Actually thing was a joke that didn't work because I was saying the Passion but I meant the Nativity. The joke: if you attempt to do a biblical theme movie these days, you are probably better off putting in a child dressed up as spider man.

8:12 PM  

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