I Think It Has Something To Do With a Movie

Here’s the St. Louis Post-Dispatch‘s film critic Joe “Bonwich was the food critic at the RFT, Dammit” Williams reviewing The Last Passion of Christ or whatever the damn thing is called.

It is anti-Semitic because Joe knows anti-Semitism when he sees it:

In Gibson’s version of events, the only earthly reason our hero is subjected to this interminable flogging is because he was betrayed by Jews. Those who feared that “The Passion of the Christ” would have an anti-Semitic subtext will have their worst fears confirmed. The unmistakable villain of the movie is Caiaphas (Mattia Sbragia), the leering, lip-smacking high priest who orders Jesus arrested and pays hecklers to demand that he be crucified. By comparison, the Roman overlord Pontius Pilate (the excellent Hristo Shopov) is a fair-minded if fretful bureaucrat who only consents to have Jesus executed to avoid civil unrest.

I don’t know, but I think it would have been a tad inauthentic to make the villain a Swedish media magnate. I thought “authenticity” meant something to people who critique the cinema.

But who am I to argue with the multi-lingual intellectual Williams? After all, he’s apparently fluent in a dead language:

In a scene that has been the subject of much prerelease debate, Gibson plays it coy, eliminating the subtitle when the Jewish onlookers shout, “Let his blood be upon us and our children,” but retaining the offending line in Aramaic.

Since he heard the line spoken and knew what it meant, one can only assume that Williams knows Aramaic, ainna? The other safe assumption might be that Williams has read other criticisms of the movie and is basing his column on what other people said about it, essentially making bullet points into paragraphs as best he can.

But I digress. Let’s play some more “Where’s the Anti-Semitism?” with Joe:

Except for Jesus’ disciples and the two Marys (Maia Morgenstern and Monica Bellucci as the mother and Magdalene, respectively), the Jewish characters are sinister and slovenly. Even some Jewish children are demonized, as they morph into monsters and drive the apostle Judas to suicide.

Jewish children, demonized as they morph into monsters. Heck’s pecs, I haven’t read the New Testament yet, but if they have cool special effects written right into the stage directions like that, perhaps I should. Still, I have a little trouble as a, you know, thoughtful person in thinking that these children which morph into demons to torment Judas morph into demons because they’re Jewish. I think they might have morphed into demons because Judas was tormented, and Jewish children fit into the scene. Munchkins would undoubtedly have been better to prevent anti-Semitism charges. But the Holy Land ain’t Oz.

For some inexplicable reason, Gibson’s scholarship becomes a question, not the movie:

Like his father, who claimed last week that the Holocaust is mostly fiction, Mel Gibson is neither a theologian nor a scholar. Historians – the kind who look at evidence – surmise that Jesus of Nazareth was executed because he fought back when his Middle Eastern homeland was occupied by the world’s most powerful army. That doesn’t fit the obviously heartfelt agenda of the director, who adheres to an embattled offshoot of Catholicism and often portrays a martyr in his movies.

Like me, who last week drank Milwaukee dry of Guinness Draught (well, okay, just one pub), Joe Williams is neither a concert violinist nor professional elephant trainer. But what does that have to do with the price of tee shirts in China? Not an annpacking thing, but it does ad homenim Mel Gibson, particularly the sweet bit about what Mel Gibson’s father said last week wherein Williams hopes some transference occurs in the reader’s mind between the father and the son.

Gibson’s neither Scotch nor Danish, either, but he was in Braveheart and Hamlet, and he had a heartfelt agenda in them, too. To make a film.

Suddenly, if the johnking history, that is to say the interpretation of history currently favored by professional academics, is the final arbiter on critical relevance then Shakespeare’s about to be unemployed. Methinks John Williams better hie himself hence to the University to retain his job, but he’s probably already the journalistic equivalent of tenured.

I don’t imagine I’ll see the film in the theater; maybe on DVD. However, I couldn’t let this review pass unsnarked. Thank you for understanding.