or ‘0‘. I“ v.2
Two films released in Scotland this fortnight deal with strikingly similar subjects. Miles Fielder compares the parallel mythologies of GRAM PARSONS and JESUS CHRIST.
AKA the Son of God. the Messiah, the Nazarene. or. as that old hipster Lord Buckley had it. simply ‘the Naz'
Born Bethlehem, Judea Father Two: Joseph and God Mother Mary Magdalene Died Mount Golgotha, Judea Cause of death Crucifixion Age 33
RIP? Nope. resurrected after three days
Lite after death Yes, 20 centuries and counting, if you're of the Faith
Legacy inspired the religion known as ‘Christianity’
What not to say ‘Jeezuz!’ — that's blasphemy
20 THE LIST 18 Mar—f Apr 2004
hat do Jesus (‘hrist and Gram Parsons have
in common‘.’ Movies. for one thing. The
lives. or more accurately the deaths. of the religious icon and the country rock music legend have been fictionalised in two films opening in the ['K one week apart. In terms of execution. the films themselves may be as different as the host and a hamburger. but the coincidence of their concurrent release highlights some striking similarities between their subjects.
First. the films. You’ll have had to be confined in a convent or moping about in a monastery for the past few years not to be aware of all the hype and hoopla surrounding the making and the release of The Passion oft/1e Christ. A labour of love — or. perhaps more accurately. an act of piety. or yet again one of filmmaking fervour — director and Christian church-goer Mel Gibson’s personal vision of the last hours of (‘hrist's life looked. before its opening in the US. to be a career killer for Hollywood‘s most fainotis Australian star. Gibson himself admitted as much.
liven before The Passion opened. the Jewish lobby (which wields not a little power
in America and l’lollywood) was accusing Gibson of
anti-Semitism. But more damning — in terms of box office potential and thus Mel‘s career - was the fact that Gibson had chosen to shoot his film in two dead languages: Latin and Aramaic. with subtitles. American cinema audiences (and those. for that matter. in most all linglish-speaking territories) don't take well to subtitled films. The odd relative success aside (Crouching Tiger. Hidden Dragon. Amort's perms). foreign language films just don‘t make money in the West. And yet The Passion oft/Iv (‘hrisl opened
at number one in the 1S box office chart. raking in an extraordinary S1 17m over its five day opening weekend and securing a place in film history as the third highest grossing film opening ever. How's that for exceeding expectations'.’
By contrast. unless you are a country rock fan ( 1970s country rock for that matter). or you happened to be in London last November for the capital‘s annual film festival or had been in ['tah for Saint Robert Redford‘s Sundance liilm Festival. it's unlikely you'd be aware of a little American independent film about Gram Parsons titled Grand Theft Parsons.
It‘s made by no one famous. Irishman David (‘affrey (best known for [hunting Jack. the so-so thriller from a few years back) directs from a script by first—timer Jeremy Drysdale. In its lead actor. Johnny Knoxville. the dangerous stunts prankster of Jackass infamy. Grand Theft has a cool—ish. kind of hopular star. Otherwise. the rest of the film‘s cast — (‘hristina Applegate. Robert liorster — can be bracketed away as cult movie actors. Add
James Caviezel as issue
to that the fact that Gram Parsons‘ story might be
legendary in music circles but that the average Joe probably isn't aware of it. and it becomes clear that Grand 'l'hrj/i is the David to Mel Gibson's Goliath.
Still. The Passion and Grand The]? deal with strikingly similar subject matter — the bizarre. ritualistic deaths and last rites of two men who had become icons to the people. who have subsequently enjoyed devoted fan clubs and who generated an enduring mythology in the aftermath of their lives.
For those unfamiliar with Gram Parsons and his myth (I’ll take reader awareness of Jesus for granted).