Mel's "Passion" stirs up the masses

The Hollywood screenwriter behind the last controversial film about Christ says Mel Gibson's new film on the crucifixion is violent and disturbing.

"It's a well-made movie but it's very violent and infused with a great sense of self-flagellation," Paul Schrader, screenwriter for "The Last Temptation of Christ," told Reuters.

Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ," to be released with an adults-only certificate in Britain Friday, has been heavily criticized for its bloody portrayal of Christ's final hours.

A 56-year-old woman died of a heart attack in Wichita, Kan., last month while watching the film's climactic crucifixion scene.

Some Jewish groups even branded the film anti-Semitic, arguing that it revives old accusations that Jews bear collective responsibility for killing the Son of God.

Schrader's "Last Temptation," released in 1988 and directed by Martin Scorsese, was attacked by Christian groups for a brief scene in which Jesus is seen having sex with Mary Magdalene.

But the screenwriter, who penned such cinematic classics as "Taxi Driver" and "Raging Bull," distanced his film from Gibson's.

A few months ago The Passion of the Christ was being written off as Mel Gibson’s folly: a dubious personal project directed, co-written and financed by the action movie star. Now the film that couldn’t find a distributor has equalled the box-office records set by The Lord of the Rings. After its US release on Ash Wednesday, it grossed $125 million in five days. After 12 days, it passed the $200 million mark. Not bad for a subtitled indie film spoken entirely in dead languages, retelling a story that everyone already knows.

"I don’t care about the money," says Gibson — and you believe him. After two decades of ruling both blokey blockbusters such as Lethal Weapon, and girlie rom-coms such as What Women Want, Gibson had made enough money to pay the film’s $25 million budget out of his own pocket — it made that back on its first day of release. The film is the culmination of a 12-year dream, beginning when Gibson’s renewed Catholic faith pulled him back from his various drug and alcohol addictions — "anything that was going". The film is devout (religious groups courted in a year-long grassroots marketing campaign block-booked cinemas throughout the US), but also so uncompromising that it has notched up an "R" rating in the States, and an even stronger "18" in the UK. No Italian cannibal zombie movie has been more violent. Perhaps you have been warned already about the notorious flogging scene? It’s even worse than anticipated, informs &to=' target=_blank>

According to &to=' target=_blank> judging by most of what you read, Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ is the most dangerous, disgusting movie of all time. Even if you haven't seen it, you know that it's a gore-filled splatterfest with anti-Semitic overtones, that Mel Gibson's father is a flat-out Holocaust-denier, and that Mel himself is a sinister marketing genius.

According to an earlier report by &to=' target=_blank>Pravda.Ru ironically one of the most perceptive statements Lenny Bruce ever made - that "every day, people are straying away from the church and going back to God" - did not involve the use of any "indecent" words at all. Yet this statement is significant in a nation where Mel Gibson's movie THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST has raised concerns about anti-Semitism and other forms of religious bigotry.

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Author`s name Editorial Team