Deconstructing Genesis, Leviticus, &c.: We Need to Counter the New Booblical Hollywood Soft Sell

If I were a few years younger and in a position to pimp movie ideas, I would dedicate the rest of my life to debunking the fake Old Testament now making the rounds of the movie theatres these days, one based on a TV miniseries and another about Noah coming from a well known sometimes auteur filmmaker, reportedly without a say in the finished product. That won't do. We cannot sit by and watch the film industry "discover" Christeranity and tell Old Testament and New tales of the daring-do of Joshua or the heroism of Abel.. Stories such as Lot in Sodom told from a historical point-of-view, using some deus ex machina to transport us from now to then or back.

During the Sixties I did a magazine article about the Mitchell Brothers, a sibling duo who wrote, produced, directed, and released X-rated feature films for the nation's "adult" movie theatres. The magazine had heard that their version of the Lot story was not from strict Booblical sources, nor was it a non-stop fuck film. I was hired to go up and see. They were shooting in the vicinity of Livermore, well ahead of its heyday yet to come as a tech center, but a bit chic at the time, too. I met the Mitchell Brothers in San Francisco, at their headquarters above a theater in a borderline kind of neighborhood. They were congenial and recommended I visit the set if I could catch up with them. If I saw the finished product I cannot remember doing so, but I have seen not only their own but other versions, including the remarkable 1933 "Lot in Sodom" by James Sibley Watson, inventive and audacious even after the passage of 80 years, a major influence on such filmmakers as Kenneth Anger and the New York school of experimental cinema (the Mekas Brothers, &c.).

My Lot will tell the probable truth. First, "God" sent a fairly good-sized meteorite that scared the shit out the Sodomites, whose crime, actually, was xenophobia: at a time when mankind was divided into tribes and the tribal leaders often led their people on caravan; when a tribe got across a desert -- Sodom and Gomorrah are called the "Cities of the Plain" because they were oases -- you wanted a meal and a bed, and village folk accommodated you. But the ancient peoples went a step further in their hospitality: they offered their wives and even their daughters to give the nomads succor of another kind. If one refused any of these things, one pissed off "God" (think of the Wizard of Oz, only the sleight of hand guy hides behind a tent. The three angels are aliens who point out that it is not nice to refuse nomadic peoples, so the Sodomites are sinnin'. Lot eats a bit too much ergot in his organic rye (a grain brought to the Holy Land by migrants from the steppes of Eastern Europe) and thereby, like a stoner, sees and hears God telling him to pack up and leave, but be sure to tell his wife "Don't Look Back." Unfortunately, she looks and is promptly turned into a pillar of salt, which other nomads chip apart to use Lot's wife as a condiment. Now, we need an extended sequence showing Lot's daughters banging dear old dad in God-approved father-daughter incest (it's holy because God wants Lot to start a new tribe). Naturally Lot goes along with this plan. He has so much fun he buys each daughter an Ethiopian..

The version I like best, so far, is the one by Robert Aldrich, Sodom and Gomorrah, made in 1962, produced by the indefatigable Joseph A. Levine, and starring Stewart Granger and Pier Angeli (erstwhile girlfriend of Kirk Douglas). But it was the presence of Anouk Aimee in the cast that raised some eyebrows. You may recall Anouk Aimee as Marcelo's wife in 8 1/2. She became a favorite of Fellini but rumors about her bisexuality were rampant in Hollywood. Fortunately, Aldrich, a great auteur, was dead serious within the confines of what the studios would allow at the time -- Aldrich struggled against censorship and the result is high camp. Not since the delightful Quo Vaidis? had there been such an overblown turd of a Booblical epic. The story of Lot per Aldrich may have been his attempt to out-do Mervyn Le Roy in preposperity. I love both films, though, and I even watch Quo Vadis? every year at Easter. I recommend all these films to youl. I think the 1933 film is available complete at YouTube.  James Sibley Watson's Lot in Sodom

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A fair amount of criticism is coming from evangelicals, who object to religious films that do not portray their interpretations of the biblical sources.

Concern ought to be focused as well on films like Heaven is for Real, soon to open around the country.

Time had a story on the big religious film fad, comparing it with the one in the last century, ending with the flop that was The Greatest Story Ever Told  The magazine piece was pegged mostly to the new Noah and confirmed my suspicion that the director, Aronofsky, did not have a final cut option in his contract. But there was another interesting fact about that particular film: most of the early viewers of about a half-dozen versions tested complained of Noah getting intoxicated after landing the Ark on Mt. Ararat. A Christian public relations expert hired by the studio said he had to explain to some pastors that the Buy Bull actually has Noah doing just that. After a 40-day deluge, a guy's got a right to a brewsky. Just goes to show you what we've always known: atheists are far more erudite about what's in the Buy Bull than many Christians. Some also thought there was little violence in the O.T. It had to be pointed out to them that God was kind of a cruel dude, some might say sadistic. Perhaps the best we can hope for is another big dollar bomb with trite dialogue and players like John Wayne, who, as the Centurian in Greatest Story, utters in his usual drawl, the show-stopping line, "For truly He was the son of God!"

That Christian PR expert should do some reading. Noah planted vineyards, so he would have had to wait a couple of years before getting drunk on the wine. What Genesis actually says he did first was to take "ritually clean beasts and birds of every kind and offer whole-offerings on the altar." The smell of the roasting flesh moved God to promise he would never again curse the ground, etc.

So when is Mel Gibson going to depict all this sacrificing in gorrifying detail on the silver screen?

Mel Gibson is not interested in cruelty to animals, only to humans. He loves Jesus so much he is dying to emulate him on a grand scale.




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