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French critics savage The Passion of the Christ

Story by: Jack Foley

FRANCE has reacted with disdain towards Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ, labelling it ‘sadistic’, ‘manipulative’ and even ‘boring’.

The film opened in France on Wednesday, March 31, amid an avalanche of controversy, having been banned from an independent cinema chain, and triumphing in a court case presented by three brothers, who sought to ban it completely from being shown in the country.

It also provoked a statement from a French bishops' conference, who agreed that while it might not be anti-Semitic, it ‘could be used to support anti-Semitic opinions’ - a criticism which marked the first official statement from the church hierarchy.

But having emerged unscathed from such tongue-lashings, it could not impress the critics, who were mostly negative towards it.

While conservative magazine, Le Figaro, said it aimed ‘to make the spectator understand what Christ endured’, the more outspoken accused it of a number of things.

Weekly magazine, Nouvel Observateur, felt it is ‘undoubtedly the most dangerous and most violent interpretation ever made of the Passion of Christ’, while Catholic newspaper, La Croix, said the level of violence contained in the film’s graphic depiction of Christ's final 12 hours worked against its intended message.

It added that ‘sadism and voyeurism’ were no substitutes for Christian teaching.

Le Monde felt the film's message formed ‘part of the worst fundamentalist trends of the modern world’, while tabloid, France-Soir, claimed it was manipulative and aimed at guilt-ridden US ultra-conservatives.

The Communist l'Humanite went so far as to describe proceedings as ‘incredibly boring’, while Liberation concluded: "It is the marriage of Hollywood money and the reactionary ideology of 'made in USA' Christian fundamentalism in a long video-clip praising martyrdom."

Audiences, thus far, have greeted it with a mixed reaction, but people are going to see it.

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