September 14, 2006

Mad Mel of the Apocalypto

How Mad Is Mad Mel? Waiting for 'Apocalypto'Mr. Gibson’s new film, “Apocalypto,” was already one of the most talked-about of the season, largely because of the Crazy Mel factor. Even for him, the oddball quotient is high. An action movie set in the dying days of the Maya civilization, the 15th century, “Apocalypto” was made in the Yucatec dialect without a single recognizable actor, and shot in the jungles of Mexico, where heavy rains slowed production and postponed its planned release from this summer. Photos from the set showed that Mr. Gibson had grown a full beard and let its central white streak grow longer than the rest, as if defiantly choosing to look like an aging eccentric.

As a director, he has been some kind of mad genius so far, anticipating what audiences want with startling clarity: making a sword-and-sandals epic when it was no longer fashionable, yet winning Oscars (including best director) for “Braveheart” (1995); turning what seemed a gigantic folly—a gruesome, subtitled, self-financed passion play—into a $600 million worldwide blockbuster with “The Passion” (2004). But those photos from Mexico and the subject of “Apocalypto”—the hero, called Jaguar Paw, is chosen as a human sacrifice and makes a fast-paced escape through the rain forest—were enough to make anyone wonder whether Mr. Gibson had finally gone around the bend and turned into some cinematic Kurtz, lost in the dark jungle.
Will it be about the savagery of Indians, or the savagery of all people, including us?The film’s Web site, put up months ago, still heralds it as “a heart-stopping mythic action-adventure,” and the trailer (a notoriously unreliable guide, but all we have) suggests it is squarely aimed at fans of “Braveheart.” As Jaguar Paw races through the jungle pursued by torch-bearing warriors, the movie seems fraught with the kind of action that makes Yucatec or any other language superfluous. There will be subtitles, but Mr. Gibson, who wrote the screenplay with his former assistant, Farhad Safinia, has said there isn’t much dialogue anyway. Some actors have extravagantly painted faces, while others are caked with white powder from a lime quarry. There is romance, or at least there has been sex: we see Jaguar Paw look tenderly at a pregnant woman. And a huge crowd scene at a Mayan temple is presided over by a man with clawlike nails straight from a horror film.

More mysteriously, in May Mr. Gibson told Time magazine, “The fearmongering we depict in this film reminds me a little of President Bush and his guys.” That adds an intriguing, media-ready frisson, but now even attacks on the Bush administration can’t displace the Mel Meltdown in any discussion of “Apocalypto.” Mr. Gibson’s drunken comments and his two public statements of apology have landed in a changed world of celebrity gossip and Internet speculation, which won’t let this story fade.
Only time will tell.


Rob said...

I'm waiting to see Jesus II: Heaven Is a Place Where Nothing Ever Happens.

Rob said...

Once you've established a brand name, you can exploit it to the hilt. Mel Gibson has done that with his blockbuster The Passion of the Christ. I see him doing a whole series of Passion of... movies:

The Passion of the Crusaders
The Passion of the Inquisitors
The Passion of the Slave Traders
The Passion of the Indian Killers
The Passion of the Missionaries
The Passion of the Supremacists
The Passion of the Aryans
The Passion of the Anti-Communists
The Passion of the Fundamentalists
The Passion of the Militia Men
The Passion of the Neocons

Rob said...

The treaties the US government signed are still in force. The US government still has a mandatory legal responsibility to act in the best interests of the tribes. While today's white people aren't responsible for past problems, they are responsible for present US/Indian relations.

Oddly, I've never heard a white person say, "While my ancestors cause the problem, not me, I'm responsible for solving the problem because it still exists. It's my government and I determine, by how I vote, how it carries out its responsibilities toward Indians. If my government contracted to provide Indian services in perpetuity and I wish to uphold the rule of law, I need to vote for representatives who will fund these services."

No, every person who denies he's responsible for the past problems also denies he's responsible for the present problems. As with those who deny the validity of the income tax, they deny the validity of signed treaties and other government obligations. The word for this is "racism": Our government's actions are legitimate except when they apply to Indians.