I found this in my e-mailbox yesterday morning. It’s a story from the Chicago Sun-Times:
Mel Gibson’s controversial “The Passion of the Christ,” which recounts the final hours in the life of Jesus, finally opens Wednesday, and the Sun-Times’ own Roger Ebert and Richard Roeper offered an exclusive early review of the movie on their syndicated series “Ebert & Roeper” this weekend.
Giving “Passion” their trademark stamp of approval of “two thumbs way up,” Ebert and Roeper called it “a great film.”
“It’s the only religious movie I’ve seen, with the exception of ‘The Gospel According to St. Matthew’ by [Italian director Pier Paolo] Pasolini, that really seems to deal with what actually happened,” said Ebert, who is the Sun-Times film critic.
“This is the most powerful, important and by far the most graphic interpretation of Christ’s final hours ever put on film,” said Roeper, a Sun-Times columnist. “Mel Gibson is a masterful storyteller, and this is the work of his lifetime. You have to admire not just Gibson for his vision and his directing abilities, but Jim Caviezel [as Christ] and the rest of the cast.”…
As it happens, I was about to leave for a screening of The Passion of the Christ when that e-mail arrived. The screening took place at the Brill Building, an address well known to show-business aficionados: A.J. Liebling wrote about it in the Thirties, calling it “the Jollity Building,” and later on it became known as the Tin Pan Alley of Sixties rock. It struck me as nicely ironic that I would be seeing a movie about the Crucifixion in such a place.
Screening rooms are dismal little affairs, comfortable enough but far from atmospheric, and in no way suited to anything remotely approaching religious contemplation. This one, not surprisingly, was full of people making calls on cell phones and conversing in notice-me voices. One fellow was earnestly explaining how Mel Gibson couldn’t possibly be a good Christian, having previously expressed his longing to impale Frank Rich’s intestines on a stick. “On a basic level,” he intoned, “it occurs to me that Jesus was a gentle guy.”
The lights went down and the film started, accompanied at first by whispered conversation, though that faded out after a few minutes. I suspect that not a few people were shocked into silence by the film’s evident high seriousness, not to mention the high quality of its craftsmanship: the actors are excellent, the production design and photography handsome without ever lapsing into picturesque self-indulgence. The one exception is the overblown music, which can’t begin to compare with Mikl