The Good Man Jesus and the scoundrel Christ

Some time ago, I was asked to draw up guidance for a filmed version of Philip Pullmann’s book. I found some of my notes today and thought they looked entertaining-

The Director/Producer had a background in tv comedy and Philip Pullmann pulled out.

Essential problem lies in the history of Christ on film:

The life of Brian dominates any effort to film the Christ story, and the Monty Python analysis is classic- that everyone speaks sententiously…

3 options:

Either Avoid entirely or fully embrace humour

The passion of the Christ ducks this choice by doing really nasty violence, which is another solution!

Is there humour in Pullman? Certainly, but much of it is the narrative voice which does not translate naturally into film.

Historical issues: can film help? Yes:

1) fill out the multicultural environment of Nazareth

a) Geography: Nazareth is Very close to Sepphoris/zippori (5 km away)

It was considered the capital of Galilee and as such, the absence of any ref in the bible is telling. (Herod the Great makes Sepphoris the capital in 47BC, tho the ROMANS already called it the effective capital from conquest in 55BC). It was recaptured by Jewish zealots in 46 and then taken by Rome again under Verrus, burnt and all inhabitants enslaved. Herod Antipas rebuilt and fortified the city. It was then called Autokratoris (autonomous city)

A direct road connects Sepporis(Saffuriyya) to Legio (Meggido) the military Headquarters in Galilee and also to the sea to Tiberias.

Now, although it was Legio that was the major garrison, the Talmud records on a number of occasions that Sepphoris was the major garrison of the area (b Shabbat 121a: this is about a non-Jew who helps extinguish a fire on the Sabbath. “it once happened that a fire broke out in the courtyard of Yosef ben Shimai in Shihin. The Roman garrison (Gastra) of Sepphoris came to extinguish it because Yosef was the guardian of the kind, but he did not allow them to because of honour for the Sabbath. A miracle took place and rain fell and extinguished the fire….”

In AD 67, there was a garrison of 6000 soldiers in Sepphora mentioned by Josephus under the leadership of Placidus. Otheres followed so that in the end, when Titus arrived the garrison numbered some 60,000 men. This may have influenced Talmudic accounts…

b) Mary’s story:

Silence may suggest that the story of Mary’s rape/ seduction by a man the Talmud calls “Ben Pandera” (son of a Panther) or Pantheus, a Roman legionary, may be true. (this is the section from the Talmud Shabbath 104b tractate:

Rabbi Hisda said: ‘The husband [of his mother] was Stada, the biological father, Pandera…The mother [yet another rabbi says] was Miriam, the women’s hairdresser…It’s like they say in [the Babylonian yeshiva town of] Pumbedita: She cheated on her husband.’

The Aramaic word M’gadla is “hairdresser” so there is confusion in this story between Miriam/mary the mother of Jesus and Mary magdalen.

Pantera may be a joke about “parthenos”, virgin. The greek work Parthenos was apparently very difficult for an Aramaic speaker to pronounce and “Panther” became a mangled corruption.

There is also a reference in ORIGEN that the Jews claim Jesus was the son of a married Jewish woman and her Roman lover

The Talmudic story is set in the 2nd Century but the writing seems to go back only to the 6th Century

2) Other sects:

Essenes: meaning expectant. Was Jesus an essene? Was John? (certainly this is implicit in Kazanzakis)

dead sea scrolls hidden around 70 AD

Nag hammadi library hidden around 200AD to keep away from Irenaeus’ heresy hunt

Archaeology: ossiaries have been found in Talpiot with names of Miriam, Joseph, Joshua and James

Gnostics. A great scene in the book (Christ and the prostitute) suggests Paulician, Waldensian or cathar beliefs about degradation of the body to hasten the judgement,

  • the devil made the world and corrupted the teachings of Christ by making the system of the church
  • -you cannot eat eggs because they are a result of sex
  • all sex is the bad but masturbation is particularly bad, and worse than rape, but gay sex was better than heterosexual sex because it could never lead to progeny. There was a belief that only the mind can sin, so any activity below the waist was not permanently sinful. The lower orders of the Cathars were in slavery to the devil so anything they did was ok because it was not their responsibility! They were saved through the efforts of the elect who had taken a special baptism to free them from slavery to the devil and the world.
  • belief in reincarnation
  • the Heresy of the Free spirit: a corruption of Sufi thought in France – if God created everything then he also created evil: blind obedience to a master and total freedom of action: the individual is above the law, there is no afterlife. Heyday between 1250- 1330

(in the East, there was a similar heresy called the EUCHITES)

Mary’s annunciation:

Rasputin’s sect were called :”the men of God” or Khlysty and they had naked parties, singing, drinking and dancing onto a trance-like state followed by orgies which led to pregnancies. The resulting children were said to be “begotten by the Holy spirit”!!

GREEK! establish Christ as a Greek name, why would Mary opt for a Greek (ie: Roman) name.

(remember the lingua Latina of Ancient Rome was Greek…)

Maybe the Magi speak to Mary in Greek…

Jesus is sometimes referred to in Yiddish as Yoyzl (Hebrew name would be Yeshu, a shortened version of Joshua) Yoske Pandre, little Jo (yoysif) Today, rabbis will say that the word Yeshu is an acronym for “y’mach sh’mo ve-zichrono”, may his name be forever forgotten.

Again, links to Sepphoris would allow for greater use of Greek.

Sepphoris represents the urban elite: Jesus is described as “a friend of tax collectors and sinners and there was a rich young man in the audience (Mk 10:17-22) and a tax collector among the apostles (Mark 2: 13-17); there is even a steward of the royal household among the followers( Chuza, steward to Herod Antipas who is rebuilding Sepphoris…luke 8:3)… does that imply he dined in Sepphoris?? Grin…(maybe he visited John in prison there: Matt 11:2)

Capernaum: needs to be brought into the story. This is where Jesus “settled down”

Fisherman (Matt 4:12-22)

Toll house (mark 2:13-14)

Centurion garrisoned there (John 4:46-54)

Ambiguity : need to preserve ambiguity of the angel/ stranger. Maybe link to soldier Ben Pantera.

Pullman explains the temptation story but not the prayer in Gethsemane. Could the angel be linked to this prayer as a dialogue?

The gethsemane monologue is very important in turning Jesus into a wholly likeable figure.

What should have been, improving the narrative – think of the trinity addition to end of Matthew 28. 19..(vs Acts 2.38 baptism in Jesus’ name only…) no texts contain chapter 28 before 4th century tho the trinitarian formula linked to this text to baptize existed by the time of Ignatius of Antioch, letter to the Philippians (107-112), Irenaeus Against Heresies (130-200) and Tertullian (He commanded the eleven others, on His departure to the Father, to “go and teach all nations, who were to be baptized into the Father, and into the Son, and into the Holy Ghost“) the Prescription Against Heretics 160-220.

  1. History and truth- stupendous
  2. Stolen body from the tomb (the legion of angels/ satanic horde “my name is legion”)

Albert Schweitzer (1906) thinks Jesus was deluded, thought the kingdom would come soon and thought he would usher it in as a triumphant messiah. He expected to be saved from the cross. I think this is the source of much of the Pullman book. What Schweitzer wrote still has relevance today and anyone writing about Christology or the “life of Jesus” is frankly writing footnotes to Schweitzer.

scweitzer by Tim

It is Schweitzer who inspires kazanzakis.

Christ is Judas. Christ is a nickname. A fairly routine idea actually and also routine would be the idea thatJesus is the twin of Thomas- hence the name didymus, “Twin”

The girl on the swing

I have been drawing the opening sequence for my documentary about Edward Lear, “Following Lear”. Here is the latest version with some detail:

It is a complex scene featuring a swing in a music hall.

PAGE1

One of my early memories of watching black and white tv was of a girl on a swing in “the Good Old Days”. I think that swing was brought out on a number of occasions actually, and at least once, in the 25th Anniversay season, Les Dawson was strapped to it in drag. It was generally there for the song “Swing me just a little bit higher, Obadiah do”. It made a lyric loaded with innuendo seem homely and very jolly.

good-644731

The music hall was full of daring routines and “the Good Old days” captured some of that spirit throwing acrobats and trapeze artistes directly into the auditorium. In the mid 19th Century, there was a craze for tightrope walking over the heads of the audience. Brilliant! I wonder how often there were accidents?

One of the early films made by Dame Joan Collins in 1955 was about Evelyn Nesbit Thaw, tied up in a messy muder trial and called “the Girl in the red velvet swing”. Of course, at a time when she was dazzling in BA and Cinzano adverts, she went on to make a slightly more scandalous film featuring an aquatic swing that arguably re-ignited her career, was based on a book by her sister Jackie, and somewhat incongruously, propelled her as staple fodder for family viewing in nearly a decade of “Dynasty”. What seemed very daring in the “Stud” and the “Bitch”, however, would today seem tame, and the thought of an A- grade star like Joan Collins getting involved in such stuff would no longer raise an eyebrow, particularly after Gielgud, Helen Mirren and O’Toole romped through “Caligula” at the end of the 80s.

I like the “Girl in the Red Velvet swing” though; it treats the subjects rather better than the subsequent film “Ragtime” which is both pedestrian and laboured. The publicity photos for La Collins, moreoever, are a treat. They are even better than the movie! Doesn’t she look radiant!

Annex - Collins, Joan (Girl in the Red Velvet Swing, The)_02

twiggyThere is also a swing scene, though fairly modest in “the Boyfriend”, designed by Tony Walton and a great scene in an early Angela Lansbury film,”Till the Clouds roll by” .

angela lansbury

I think I have now looked at almost all the swings in the movies!

Till_The_Clouds_Roll_By

The problem with swings is that every single frame represents a change in perspective- a nighmare for 2d drawing and I have had a few attempts so far. I am quietly pleased with the lastest effortwhich I will work on over the next month.

The music is by David Watson and the song is sung by Thomasin Tresize. If the spirit of the animation is a bit racy, I suppose that is to do with Joan Collins as much as with the hint of naughtiness that Tom suggests as she sings it!

I think it is meditative of course…. I tried to time the swing to the bars of music and it looks too premeditated- a bit like an early Mickey Mouse film. The idea of timing animation to hit the beat gave the whole screen animation/ music industry a very bad name, and it is bizarre that this was taking place at exactly the same time that Astaire was developing his technique of dancing OFF the beat. It’s when the dancer hits the beat at a specific moment that the magic happens. So the swinging motion is now independent of the beat (just).

how pleasant to know Mr lear6

Here’s the sequence partly storyboarded:

and here is an early sketch:

 

President Aleksandar Vučić

Here is a quick picture of the absurdly tall Aleksandar Vučić, long-time PM in Serbia and just recently elected President to succeed his mentor Tomislav Nikolić, with a huge majority that would have made our own PM proud! He was sworn in about 10 days’ ago in a ceremony attended by the Serbian Patriarch in Belgrade’s Andrica Venac so this picture is a bit late. That his friends and enimies both make reference to him as assuming the mantle of Tito should worry the West, but it does not seem to have done so far. And anyway, he has impeccable english! I hesitate to mention a number of scandals, from a misplaced loyalty to Ratko Mladic and a savage attack on the journalist Slavko Ćuruvija who was then murdered in what his wife alleged was some sort of state-sponsored assassination. He even managed to divorce his first wife (mother of Danilo and Milica) and marry his second just in time for her to give birth to his son. Well, this is the man who had famously implemented State censorship for Slobodan Milošević. But he assures the West that his views have changed.

While he has a good relationship with Angela Merkel, playing a very positive role in Kosovo, he seems to be alone in the EU area resisting sanctions on Russia, and in return he has options to invest in new Russian missiles. Missiles aside, what he says he wants is EU accession and greater regional stability.

serbian PM by TIM

Leo Varadkar, the Taoiseach

Here is a picture of Leo Varadkar who is set to succeed Enda Kenny and become Ireland’s youngest Prime Minister. In 2015, he came out as gay, boosting the yes campaign for same sex marriage. His father is Indian and his mother Irish and the whole family, including his rather dashing partner Dr Matt Barrett, all seems to be involved in Medicine. Indeed, Leo was a GP before he went on to become a councillor and stand for election to the parliament. Assuming the opposition does not block Leo’s accession to the Taoiseach, he will be the second openly gay Prime minister in Europe. His party’s power is fairly fragile but we need friends in Ireland if we are to make the Northern Ireland border work following Brexit.

leo VARADKAR by TIm.jpg

 

Alex Cruz BA

On his 50th birthday, Alex Cruz had an Airbus named after him. He had already founded an airline (Clickair in 2006) He was being thanked for his approachability and his public relations’ brilliance. But last week, 75,000 passengers were stuck in Heathrow and Gatwick and across the globe while he fiddled like Nero. First he hid from interviews for two days and then, having got a spokesman to confirm that “he’s very tech-savvy” and very self confident, he was wheeled out to deny that there had been a cyber attack (the easy option) and to deny that recent cuts and outsourcing were to blame for the lack of any usable back-up systems. That rather leaves himself exposed.

It may be a while before BA name a plane after their current boss.

I wonder how much it costs to fly back to Bilbao in a hurry?

alex Cruz BA by TIM.jpg