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Calhoun’s Can(n)onsWanna second opinion? OK, how about MTV News from 5-29-06:
The Da Vinci Snooze
Since I had read a variety of the same books Dan Brown used as the basis for his best selling novel, The Da Vinci Code, I didn’t bother reading the book since I already knew all about “the greatest secret in modern history” that if revealed “would devastate the very foundations of Christianity.” Alas, for fans of shaken foundations, the hypothetical beans had already been spilled years ago in the book, "Holy Blood, Holy Grail" and Christianity remained as un-devastated as ever.
But I was curious to see the film to figure out how they’d make a thriller out of a “secret” that required so much endless ‘splainin.’ Although I kept dozing off, the structure was: (1) blah, blah, blah --detailed, endless “explanations” of theoretical hokum and muddled facts [Hint to film makers: the audience doesn’t need to know how or why The Hulk turns green. Just mutter something vague about an “overdose of radiation” then get on to the leaping and jumping and smashing], then ( 2) every 20 minutes, an armed, Mad Albino Monk leaps out of the shrubbery bent on homicide, which causes a few minutes of (3) comic Fire Drill racing around and then (4) everyone rushes off to some photogenic European local, say... Zurich! (5) Repeat the cycle, only next time, go to... France!
The real Da Vinci puzzle to me was why on earth some “religious” folks were taking all this harum-scarum as if it were real. Sure, it’s the summer silly season and the media and various pandering groups use each other during that downtime to brew up faux controversies to sell more papers. And, O.K, author Brown did make the conservative Catholic organization, Opus Dei, the locus of our Mad Murderous Leaping Albino Monk, and, yes, part of the discipline the members engage in does involve mortifying the flesh with small whips and thigh chains, but, that’s hardly new. Flesh mortification has been part and parcel of “Christianity” for a long time. In addition, official “monks” – mad, leaping or otherwise -- are not a part of the Opus Dei organization.
No, what was interesting to me was that all the harrumphing by certain “religious” folks, made me wonder just how many Christians are actually familiar with their own history? Are they aware that there were many gospels, some of which undoubtedly still lie buried in the desert sands, hidden there by various early Christian sects, waiting to be discovered just like the Dead Sea Scrolls.? That the wide variety of gospels known and used during the early years were eventually selected and edited and deliberately shaped by human hands and minds into the canon we are familiar with today? (A canon that has undergone myriad translations, retranslations, and mistranslations through the centuries?) That in the early centuries after Jesus’ death, there were a wide variety of “Official Christian” belief systems known and practiced, systems that were winnowed out in a long, sometimes bloody historical/political/cultural transformation that resulted in the product we know today? And that that this shaping and reshaping process continues even now?
Only people ignorant of the long historical journey their belief system has traveled (including the missing pieces, lost, stolen, buried, deliberately destroyed) could get worked up over the claims and suppositions that author Brown had such fun playing with – Knights Templars, grand inquisitions, missing scrolls, the bogus Priory of Scion, hidden secrets, the whiff of sex and scandal. This was supposed to be the heady brew that contained the blasphemous “secret” that would shake the foundations of Christianity?
As if? Haven’t we learned long ago that faith and fact have never been dependent upon one another? Still aren’t. Never will be, world without end, amen.
If anyone has failed to understand that crucial lesson, may I suggest they hum a few bars from Porgy and Bess’s “It ain’t necessarily so . . .”, then go rent Monty Python’s Life of Brian. Underneath all the Python’s outrageous tomfoolery, lies a serious message: Proceed cautiously when it comes to blind faith – things may not be what they seem. And in an imperfect world, it’s easy to get things muddled.
And, if it’s a swell thriller you want, go rent The Bourne Identity, I & II. It doesn’t have leaping albino monks, but it’s a great chase movie involving lots of photogenic European locales. And no theological blah, blah, blah to slow things down.
Ann Calhoun's Cannons website: www.calhounscannon.blogspot.com
This flabby and blab-infested movie demonstrates once again why Hollywood should stop trying to adapt international egghead blockbusters--books about books, or about various sorts of twisty antiquarian arcana--into films. Works of this sort are too solidly rooted in stylish writing and convoluted scholarly concepts to make into rousing movies...
And so sitting thru the film version of "The Da Vinci Code," with its bland characters nattering on and on about Rose Lines and keystones and of course the mysterious Priory of Sion, is like having the book read to you--or more accurately, at you. Which is to say, its boring (it's also two and a half hours long, which makes it--believe me--extra boring).
No one is likely to mistake author Dan Brown's serviceable prose for stylish writing, and character development doesn't seem to be among the slender arrows in his artistic quiver. Nevertheless, his first 3 heavily researched techno-thrillers--"Digital Fortress," Angels & Demons, and "Deception Point"--were highly efficient page-turners. The fourth, of course, 2003's "Da Vinci Code," ascended to another level of pop phenomena entirely, and has since evolved into an object of worldwide, cult-like obsession.
...readers who've bought this book will be familiar, in many cases feverishly, with its story, as much as possible of which has been crammed into the movie...This vivid tale, set forth in a 1982 book called "Holy Blood, Holy Grail," has been demonstrated, quite conclusively, to be hogwash (the Priory of Sion turns out to have been "founded" in 1956, by a veteran French con man named Pierre Plantard)...Dan Brown--who was accused of plagiarism in an unsuccessful lawsuit against his publisher earlier this year by 2 of the authors of "Holy Blood, Holy Grail"--did a bang-up job of repackaging it as a conspiracy thriller...To attempt to make sense of all this, he installed a Harvard "professor of religious symbology" named Robert Langdon.
Langdon is a wooden, unengaging character in the book--he's there to clear away conundrums in an all-knowing way, nothing more--and he's portrayed with surprising woodenness in the movie by Tom Hanks, who looks alarmingly overweight and who seems to be acting, in some scenes, mainly with his jowls (Wandering disconsolately thru the flaccid proceedings, Hanks appears increasingly dismayed by what the movie's turning into, which is a mess). Langdon's associate...police cryptologist Sophie Neveu, is played by the charming French actress Audrey Tautou...the high point of their interpersonal heat is a limp handshake at the end of the picture. In unfortunate addition, the skillful British actor Paul Bettany has been directed to play the tormented albino monk...as a lurching monster out of a late-50s Hammer horror movie.
Director Ron Howard...never manages to make the overloaded story lift off. His grainy "historical" flashbacks to such obscure settings as the First Council of Nicea are fuddled visual intrusions; and when an attempted assassination is miraculously foiled by a sudden swoop of white doves(!), or when Langdon and Sophie manage to slip away from a police-beseiged Paris bank because her family account "includes a safe-passage clause," it's hard to imagine what he was thinking.
...Not to mention Langdon's groan-summoning "It all started about a 1000 years ago..." Although by the time the film's last scene has finally shambled by, that phrase at least seems an apt comment on this interminable movie itself.
Cars (bringing Pixar a gross of over $62 million for the weekend)
X-Men: The Last Stand
The Omen (remake)
Over The Hedge (an animated movie from Pixar's rival that didn't do as good as expected)
The Da Vinci Code (dropping from 4th to 6th place)
A Prairy Home Companion
Mission Impossible 3 (at 8th place; the studio didn't renew Tom Cruise's contract after this)
RV (Robin Williams comedy, I think. Yes, it says here it was a comedy)
Poseidon (another remake, without Shelly Winters or Leslie Nielsen)
Fun Facts from IMDb.com* Officials from Britain's Westminster Abbey refused to allow filming to take place in the Abbey, claiming that the book is "theologically unsound". Filmed instead at Lincoln Cathedral in eastern England
* To protect both the fabric of the building and the works of art it contains, the production's use of the Louvre Museum in Paris was carefully controlled. For instance, no equipment was allowed inside the Louvre during the opening hours, so filming took place at night. Since the crew were not permitted to shine light on the Mona Lisa, a replica was used to film instead. No blood or mysterious writings were permitted on the wooden floor of the museum so these scenes were shot at Pinewood Studios outside London. In the end, 5 replicas of the Mona Lisa were used
* The musical instrument known as the "duduk", the use of which has become a tradition in Hollywood movies and Televison (Gladiator, Hercules, Ronin, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe as well as Color of Pomegranates and Parajanov: The Last Spring) is played in this movie by the virtuoso Djivan Gasparian.
* There is a gargoyle spied by Sophie inside Westminster Abbey that is modeled after director Ron Howard's face
* Talking in Latin language with Silas, Aringarosa bishop call "Paris" as "Parisi": but the Latin name for Paris was actually Lutetia, "Parisi" was the name of its inhabitants
* Langdon presses the tracking device he's found in his pocket into a (white) bar of soap he's taken from the toilets and throws it out of the window into the back of a truck. The Louvre toilets are supplied with large lemon-shaped (and lemon-scented, and lemon-colored) soaps fixed to metal rods over the sinks. When Sophie is in the Louvre rest room, you can clearly see windows. However, the Louvre's restrooms do not have windows
* They refer to the bishop as Your Eminence. A bishop is Your Excellency. Your Eminence is used for a Cardinal.
* When Robert and Sophie go to the Roslin church and go down to the lower chamber, Mary's Sarcophagus was supposed to have been there at one time, yet it would have been impossible to get the huge Sarcophagus down there through the narrow passage, unless the church was built around it. If that is true, then how was the Sarcophagus removed from the cellar of the church?
* Spoofs so far: The Da Vinci Load | The DiCaprio Code | Sigillet | The Albino Code | The Da Vinci Load | 2006 MTV Movie Awards | Epic Movie | American Dad: Black Mystery Month | South Park: Fantastic Easter Special
* A plot element in a mystery story that functions as a false clue by drawing attention away from the correct solution is called a "red herring". Bishop Aringarosa is a red herring in The Da Vinci Code. This is hinted by the fact that "aringa rossa" means "red herring" in italian
* There are 15 deaths in the film: 3 are stabbed, 5 shot, 1 dies of a broken neck, 1 is incinerated, 3 are killed in a car accident, 1 dies after head was bashed, and 1 was poisoned with peanuts in a bottle of alcoholic beverage
* Sequel: Angels & Demons (2008, based on the previous book in the series)