Archive for Mel Gibson

Sorrow Flouted at Is Double Death

Posted in Titus Andronicus with tags , , , , , , , on 2014/01/15 by mattermind

Titus Andronicus, Act III

One of the most horrific news stories I’ve ever encountered occurred on 2 October 2006, when a lone gunman opened fire in an Amish schoolhouse.  A summary of that tragic event and how it unfolded may be found HERE.

What’s more remarkable than yet another shocking episode of violence perpetrated against innocent children is the Amish reaction that followed.  Rather than avenging the deaths or seeking the harshest available form of justice, the Amish community rallied to forgive the perpetrator and include the mother of the shooter in the circle of healing.

It’s a truly heart-wrenching story that will rewrite your assumptions about the capacity of the human heart to handle grievous loss.  If you are seeking an example of how religion exemplifies the capacity to elevate the soul, look no further than HERE.

This surely came to mind because of how Titus Andronicus has unfolded.  I think back to Act I and what Titus did to invoke the wrath of the gods.  I say gods as if I were referring to someone like Job, who God allowed Satan to mess with.  But like all matters regarding Shakespeare, the evils invoked have a human source of origin, in this case, the unwillingness of Titus to grant amnesty to the son of the captured Goth queen, Tamora.  If he had done this, there would have been no tragedy.

But is this really true?  I wonder, because Saturninus, Aaron and Tamora are not nice people.  Without the initial injustice, will Tamora and the captured Goths make nice?  Would the lust of Tamora’s two sons still vent in the bestial acts committed against Lavinia, Titus’ lovely daughter?  Would his two sons have been falsely set up for murder?  Would Saturninus be any nicer?  Would Aaron, Tamora’s secret lover, not savor the black art of dirty tricks?

Titus, it seems to me, is very much in the mold of Othello, a great general who finds the real trouble begins once he returns home.  At every point in the story so far, he has behaved with the utmost attention to honor, even to the extreme of killing his own son for attempting to save Lavinia for marriage to her betrothed.  He declined the title of emperor in favor of Saturninus.  And when he allows the son of Tamora to be executed, he does so not out of power but because his own soldiers seek a ritual act to becalm the souls of their slain brethren.  The moment demands it, even if he still might override convention and heed Tamora’s plea to amnesty her son.

Nothing Titus ever did equates to the cataclysm that befalls him.  Had Tamora recognized this, she might not have unleashed the venom of blood-feud revenge that exacts such a toll on the whole Titus clan.  It might have ended long before the woe. 

But it didn’t – and hasn’t – and isn’t about to, I’m afraid.  For we’ve reached the turning point when Titus has discovered the source of his pathetic misery.  His troubles have a known cause and that cause is about to meet his wrath.  I wonder what Job might have done if his plagues had a human genesis.  Would he too have exacted his revenge?

Because of Titus’s essential goodness, the turn we’re about to take has a familiar feel to it.  The avenger of inflicted wrongs has become a common anti-hero in Hollywood movies.  The ones that come to mind are Death Wish, Braveheart, Once Upon a Time in the West, Dirty Harry (basically anything starring early Clint Eastwood), and another film featuring Mel Gibson.

Shakespeare would have made one helluva screenwriter.



Exploring the Dark Side

Posted in Asides with tags , , , , on 2010/01/29 by mattermind

I have a suspicion that there’s a lot of restless turmoil churning beneath the American psyche since 9/11 — rage, sadness, hurt and confusion that hasn’t been addressed yet in our art and public discourse.

I’ve read up a bit on trauma and what it does to its victims. Too often, the symptoms are overlooked or placated with a hardy John Wayne-ish “Buck up, Pilgrim” approach that leaves the bereft and grieving to feel all alone in their internal shock and sadness.

Only now are our movies — the only universal art form that we have — beginning to explore the deep hurt, fear and anger roiling in our collective unconsciousness. It’s coming out in odd, curious, depressing showdowy and apocolyptic ways that truly terrify me.

I may be alone in this, but I suspect that many of us are still searching for answers to relieve the pain and betrayal we feel inside us. And we’re tired of the schmaltz and pablum that we’re offered as consolation from the media. It’s either “Don’t think about that” or “Let’s go blow us some cool shit up.” Or: “The bogey monsters are coming to get you.” And: “Lo, the end of the world is neigh.”

If it’s the end of the world as we know it, I don’t feel fine, REM. And sorry, Prince, but I can only vaguelly recall how it was partying like it’s 1999. Before it all changed only two short years later.

We have serious work to do as a nation, as a society, as a culture, as a people if we are to drain the hurt from our hearts and rebuild our national strength, our brightness, our warmth, our trust, and our faith in a better future for all of us.

I don’t think movies like this will help:

Revenge Fantasy: Gibson vs. Goons
By Michael O’Sullivan
Friday, Jan. 29, 2010

There’s nothing especially edgy or dark, or darkly edgy, or even particularly twilit about “Edge of Darkness,” at least as thrillers go. Its title is one of those generic labels, like “Compelling Evidence” or “Deadly Affair,” that only hint at what’s inside, without telling you the exact flavor or nutritional content.

Here’s what you’ll find: an elaborate — and not entirely unsatisfying — revenge fantasy about a cop who sets out to find his daughter’s killer after she’s gunned down in front of him on his front porch.


Calling Dr. Freud

Posted in Hamlet, Movie Reviews with tags , , , on 2010/01/22 by mattermind

Glenn Close is nine years older than Mel Gibson, give or take a few months. (Shhh — don’t tell her I said that.) This span of not even a decade makes them an odd pairing to be cast as mother and son.

What in tarnation possesses older men to insist on playing Hamlet?

That said, he hits the ball way out of the park in this version. Many a moment took my breath away. It’s a pure pleasure to watch from start to finish. But, me being me, there are still a few aspects with which I’d like to quibble.

First: I’m not terribly fond of how Helena Bonham Carter played Ophelia. Fine actress, no doubt. But her reading robbed the girl of a great measure of her innocence. She seemed far too knowing, far too insightful into Hamlet’s behavior than the role warrants.

Second: Most of the abridgements were handled smoothly, and didn’t call too much attention to their absence. Gone again, understanably, is the outer doubling with Fortinbras and the Norwegians. To the good, we have Rosencrantz and Guildenstern back, who were notably absent from Olivier’s. But I take umbrage at how the burial scene was mangled. This, I believe, is more than a quibble. Watching it, I even got angry.

Here’s why: Laertes’s actions are in part driven by the cold-heartedness of the Priest, who insists that Ophelia did not deserve a Christian burial, and indeed, was only receiving anything more than a pauper’s burial because of her connections. Laertes, in reply, defends his sister’s purity and honor, saying she’ll be among the angels singing in heaven while he rots away in hell. It’s powerful stuff.

Maybe Mel didn’t like it because he’s a devout Cathlolic. But the tone of the scene turns wrong from the moment the funeral procession comes in singing a requiem. The Priest’s lines state specifically that she didn’t get one because she didn’t deserve one, at least according to the letter of the law.

Shakespeare indicates that there is stealth to the procession, that it has to occur under a cloak of secrecy due to the circumstances. Yet in they come, this long freight train of mourners, singing away.

Laertes does not jump into the grave. And his passionate words are not what motivate Hamlet to reveal himself in a bit of a pissy who-loved-her-more sort of a duel. Leaping into the grave and grappling in the midst of a burial — yeah, that’s over the top. But it also foreshadows the duel ahead and the ever-spiraling tragedy engulfing them. It’s one of my favorite moments of the play, and this telling did not do it justice.

The finale, however, was a huge improvement over Olivier’s — with one exception. The swordfight, the death of the King, Hamlet’s final speech… these were all superlative and fitting. But whoa whoa whoa, I did not like the alternative reading of the Queen’s innocent victimhood with the poisoned wine. It’s a viable option and it deserves credence. But it sounds a sour note in my heart.

Gertrude’s pivotal moment occured just prior, when Hamlet serves as a mirror to repent and change her ways. That she does so, we can see in her tenderness for Ophelia, her devotion to her son, and (we can only interpolate) her withdrawl of affections for the King.

It would in part explain why Claudius puts up such faint-hearted resistence when she takes the cup to drink. But then again, he’s such a foul and corrupted man at this point, all he really cares about is saving his own skin.

I’m not saying that there’s definitive proof in the text for either reading. Certainly a case can be made for Gertrude’s shock and surprise at the level of treachery uncovered by her own unwitting demise. There is poetic justice in her falling victim to her own husband’s trickery.

But I guess what I miss is her own immolation as a form of ultimate repentence. That’s the note that feels more right in Olivier’s telling. First, she suspects that Claudius is up to no good yet again. Second, she willingly intercepts the cup and sacrifices herself, in her mind with the hope of saving her son.

Take that away, she becomes yet another pawn in the villainy.

But maybe that’s just me.

I recommend both Zefirelli (Gibson) and Olivier DVDs very highly. If I protest, I do protest too much. I am cruel only to be kind.