A Cautious Man
February 10, 2004
 
Movie Ratings Game
As noted here the other day, there is more and more interest in Mel Gibson's Passion movie as the opening date nears. Among the viewers and reviewers will be the Office for Film and Broadcasting of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Out of curiosity, I checked to see what they had written as a review of Martin Scorcese's The Last Temptation of Christ:
Last Temptation of Christ, The -- Deeply flawed screen adaptation of the Nikos Kazantzakis novel probing the mystery of the human nature of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, fails because of artistic inadequacy rather than anti-religious bias. Director Martin Scorsese's wrong-headed insistence on gore and brutality, as well as a preoccupatiuon with sexual rather than spirtual love, is compounded by screenwriter Paul Schrader's muddled script, shallow characterizations and flat dialogue delivered woodenly by William Dafoe in the title role. Excessively graphic violence, several sexually explicit scenes and some incidental nudity. (O)
The rating "O" is from the USCCB's rating system, as follows:
A-I - General Patronage
A-II - Adults and Adolescents
A-III - Adults
A-IV - Adults, with reservations (An A-IV classification as a safeguard against wrong interpretations and conclusions.)
O - Morally Offensive
So, that got me to thinking, what should the review and rating be for the new film? One hypothetical possibility would be:
Passion of the Christ, The -- Deeply flawed screen adaptation of the Passion narrative, which claims to be faithful to the Gospels, although drawing on non-Scripture sources which were never meant to be used as historical representations of the Passion. The passion and death of Jesus Christ is presented with little context with respect to His teaching mission, and with added elements which could be interpreted as assigning responsibility solely to the Jews of the time. Ultimately, the film fails because of artistic inadequacy rather than any overt anti-Semitism. Director Mel Gibson's wrong-headed insistence on gore and brutality, as well as a preoccupation with the culpability of the Jewish authorities, is compounded by a script which includes several scenes which not only add to, but appear to contradict the Gospel narratives. Excessively graphic violence.
As for a rating, what could that be? Is the film for children, adults, or for adults with "a safeguard against wrong interpretations and conclusions"? Could it be the big "O"? I don't know the answer, but it will be interesting to find out.

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