Rather like Donald Trump’s campaign for president in 2016, Mel Gibson’s 2004 movie The Passion of the Christ was not popular in Beverly Hills. I overheard the following conversation in a Rodeo Drive screening room while Gibson’s Aramaic-language movie was doing historic business in Chicano neighborhoods:
Man: The Passion really doesn’t work as a movie. I mean, if you don’t know who the characters are, you can’t figure out what’s going on. And why is he washing people’s feet?
Woman: It’s like Gibson expects you to know the story already.
Man: And it’s so historically inaccurate. The men didn’t have long hair back then.
Woman: Now, what I really like is The Da Vinci Code.
Long before Gibson released The Passion of the Christ, it was virulently demonized as threatening to unleash anti-Semitic pogroms. When that of course never happened, few apologized for their bigotry, instead waiting for the hard-drinking Gibson to slip up so that history could be rewritten with the director now blamed for starting the squabble.
After years of being blacklisted by Hollywood, during which Gibson continued to do interesting work, such as Jodie Foster’s The Beaver and Get the Gringo, Gibson has finally been let out of movie jail for his new directorial effort, Hacksaw Ridge.
A WWII combat/horror film, Hacksaw Ridge recounts the true story of Desmond Doss, a Lynchburg, Va., hillbilly whose Seventh-day Adventist faith precluded him from holding a gun. Somewhat like Alvin York, a hero of World War I, Doss doesn’t see himself as a conscientious objector but as a “conscientious cooperator,” happy to help his country win by serving as a combat medic but unwilling to handle a weapon himself…
Hacksaw Ridge is getting very good reviews, although I suspect some of that is due to unexpressed guilt over the mistreatment of an important artist due to ethnic animus.