Newsbites: Smoking! Teresa! Bon Cop!

Newsbites: Smoking! Teresa! Bon Cop! August 26, 2006

Been busy with work lately, but here are a few quick items.

1. Variety reports that Turner Broadcasting will recut more than 1,700 episodes of Hanna-Barbera cartoons, such as The Flintstones, to eliminate scenes of smoking. It notes: “They have yet to rule whether Homer Simpson will still get to drink beer.” Or whether the characters will still do anything, y’know, violent.

2. The Times of London reports that Paz Vega, the star of Sex and Lucia (2001), will play St. Teresa of Ávila in an “allegedly blasphemous” film called Teresa: Death and Life:

The writings of the saint — a mystic who said that Christ conversed with her — are revered as spiritual masterpieces four centuries after her death.

But film-makers don’t do spirituality as easily as sexuality and, in exploring the saint’s sex life, they find themselves accused of treading sacrilegiously.

The film was denounced by Benedicta Ward, a nun and Reader in the History of Christian Spirituality in the Theology Faculty at Oxford University, who wrote the introduction to a recent edition of the saint’s celebrated work, Life.

On being told about the film’s content, she said: “The stress on her virginity and her sexuality are entirely modern interests — as if she were living now. That’s not fair. She is the greatest of the mystics. She has visions and writes about them and analyses them in an extraordinary way.”

The film, a Spanish, French and British co-production, is written and directed by Ray Loriga, who worked with Pedro Almodóvar on the script of Live Flesh.

He was prepared for a possible controversy, but said: “The vision we have been offered of St Teresa is very close to a holy image. So far, everybody has been careful not to touch on certain uncomfortable subjects — her sexuality, her relationship with God, which was so close, nearly skin to skin.

“These subjects were considered scandalous then and have not been studied much. They’ll probably seem scandalous now, which does not say much for the progress made by the Catholic Church over the centuries.”

He added: “This is the 21st century and I think certain opinions about St Teresa, such as the question of her virginity, could change.”

The film will also star Geraldine Chaplin, daughter of Charlie, who once starred in a biopic of the similarly-named Mother Teresa.

3. I like the idea of Bon Cop, Bad Cop. Quebec has a thriving indigenous film industry, while the rest of Canada has had to make do with an odd mix of highbrow art movies and crass imitations of mainstream American films — and sometimes the films produced in “English Canada” don’t have anything to do with Canada at all. But very few movies have straddled the line between the “two solitudes” — both in terms of subject matter and in terms of their intended audience. So when I saw the trailer for Bon Cop, Bad Cop before a screening of Clerks II, I was intrigued; it looked like a Canadian version of the Rush Hour movies (1998-2001).

But then I saw the film itself. It’s extremely uneven. Very dark and grim in some scenes, dumb and stupid plot twists in others, and I had zero interest in the characters. The friend with whom I saw the film said he liked it because it reminded him of his work in sketch comedy, but I say movies need to be more than full-length episodes of Saturday Night Live, including all the unfunny bits.

Canadian critics were surprisingly positive about the film, at least in English Canada. So thank goodness for Steve Burgess, who savages the film in today’s A few excerpts:

Bon Cop, Bad Cop comes off like something that was created explicitly to gain a government grant. The screenplay appears to have been written with the proviso that every Canadian reference would be worth $5,000. If so the filmmakers would be multi-millionaires. The mission statement was clearly “Lethal Weapon meets Two Solitudes,” as a French and a Canadian cop (Patrick Huard and Colm Feore) square off, snarl, battle and find the inevitable buddy-buddy common ground while solving a crime. In service of this goal, Bon Cop, Bad Cop piles every Canadian cliché imaginable onto every cinematic cliché ever committed. The Plains of Abraham, hockey, the Quebec license plate slogan, hockey, Quebecois profanity, the Governor-General, cheap anti-Americanism, hockey, and on and on. A woman achieves sexual satisfaction while moaning “Vive le Quebec Libre.” An evil hockey commissioner is a runty guy named “Buttman.” It’s the kind of movie where you think, “Why not just throw in a giant beaver?’ And voila — comes the giant beaver in a mascot suit. . . .

If you set out to create a parody of bad Canadian entertainment, you couldn’t do much better than Bon Cop, Bad Cop. And when you strip away all the painfully laboured Canadiana you are left with a movie that would have looked like a third-rate knock-off had it appeared 25 years ago. Back then it could have been a pioneer in the straight-to-video industry. Today it simply stands as an indictment of Canadian film. . . .

My reaction to Bon Cop, Bad Cop was something akin to shame and disgust. Is this truly the state of Canadian culture — a movie that seems to be a two-hour extension of that old “I am Canadian” beer commercial? With so few Canadian movies getting wide distribution, is this really the best we can do? If so, let us never again complain of the sludge we get from Hollywood. We deserve to be overrun with the crap of other nations. . . .

The thing is, it isn’t just the critics who seem to have gone ga-ga for this. Bon Cop, Bad Cop was #5 in Canada two weeks ago (based purely on Quebec theatres, I believe), and it was #3 in Canada last week, and it has already raked in over $4 million — excellent numbers for a Canadian film. So, alas, it isn’t dying a quick death.

4. Jeffrey Overstreet digs the poster for Children of Men.

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