Articles and Arcana
May 14, 2006
Could the truth really be out there?
Its backers have taken a virtual vow of silence, but that won’t stop Tom Cox questing after The Da Vinci Code movie’s hidden facts
It is the most talked-about film of the decade, but the release of The Da Vinci Code has been cloaked in more secrecy than the book’s “Opus Dei” monks, with few pre-release interviews and no preview screenings.
We know that the trailer features Tom Hanks saying “My God!” in that way only Tom Hanks can, and Amélie’s Audrey Tautou looking and sounding as if she had got lost on the way to the art-house.
We know that Westminster Abbey didn’t allow the director, Ron Howard, permission to film there; he had to use Lincoln Cathedral instead.
But this is the information age! What can we find out if we probe a little further?
In homage to The Last Supper, here — with the help of the information superhighway, a trip to darkest Cambridgeshire and just a little imagination — Culture presents
13 things you might not know about the movie event of the year.
1 The build-up to the film’s release has seen objections from several official bodies, including Opus Dei, the Vatican and the National Association for Albinism and Hypopigmentation, which says Paul Bettany’s portrayal of Silas, the evil albino monk, will give albinos a bad name.
The latest dissenting voice comes the Alliance of French Female Cryptographers, which is concerned about the stereotyping Tautou’s portrayal of Sophie Neveu, the seductive cryptographer heroine, might promote. “What’s important is that people realise not all female cryptographers are enchanting, or even sexy,” it says. “Some of us are thoroughly plain, bordering on dowdy, and couldn’t smile in a cutesy, pixie-ish manner if we tried.” EDITOR'S NOTE: DID THIS LOSE SOMETHING IN THE TRANSLATION? (MOST PHYSICISTS DON'T LOOK LIKE HEATHER GRAHAM DID IN THAT JAMES BOND MOVIE, EITHER. MOST PHYSICISTS CAN ALSO PRONOUNCE PHYSICIST).
2 Already, The Da Vinci Code has a porn counterpart. Though it does not possess the snappiest title of X-rated takeoffs of Hanks films (see You’ve Got Shemale, 2002), The Da Vinci Load features the following choice piece of dialogue.
Sexy female doctor: “So, Da Vinci jerked off on his paintings?”
Professor Lee Teabag: “It’s just the way things were done!”
EDITOR'S NOTE: AND HERE IS WHERE ALL YOU PORN DWEEBS ARE SAYING "THOSE FILMS HAVE DIALOGUE?"
3 It has been noted that “Leigh Teabing” — the name of the dastardly historian played by Ian McKellen — is an anagram of the surnames of Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh, two of the three authors of The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail, who recently lost a plagiarism case against Dan Brown.
What has been noted less often is that “Mary Magdalene” is an anagram of “ anagram medley”, and that “Ian McKellen” can be rearranged to form “cinema knell”.
4 Studio insiders are reportedly worried that Tom Hanks’s haircut, which has been subjected to intense chemical treatment, may put younger audiences off. Rumours that the shaggy, swept-back mop was based on an exact replica of Brown’s cannot be confirmed. Before Hanks landed the lead role of Robert Langdon, professor of symbology, Hugh Jackman, George Clooney and Russell Crowe were considered, but allegedly dismissed on the grounds of “insufficiently sensitive receding academic mullet thang”.
5 It is estimated that 50m people have read The Da Vinci Code. The official figure for UK adults of sound mind still unaware of the book’s existence is 71. This is set to be reduced on the movie’s release, which could lead to the first trip to the cinema by Audrey Bentley, of Broomhill, Sheffield, since the release of The Towering Inferno.
“I don’t normally like make- believe stuff,” said Mrs Bentley, 76. “But I thought I should find out what all the fuss is about. And I like that nice Tom Conti fella.” EDITOR'S NOTE: HEY. AT LEAST SHE...UNLIKE SOME MAJOR ORGANIZATIONS (BASED IN ROME?)....SEEMS TO BE AWARE THAT IT IS MAKE-BELIEVE!
6 “What you will see up there on screen is the book,” Brown has said of the film. While Howard has omitted the novel’s controversial, purportedly factual foreword, interviews with the director suggest he has largely ignored the protests of the Catholic church and been faithful to the plot.
More discerning viewers, however, should be aware that if you take “Defy Rome Loop, Ron” and play with the letters for long enough, you can come up with “money for old rope”.
7 Tautou — who, when recently asked about the book by a national newspaper, made the somewhat oxymoronic statement “Like all of us, I devoured it in several days” — has hinted that The Da Vinci Code may be her last film. She has expressed an interest in working “with monkeys” instead. EDITOR'S NOTE: WHICH MEANS A TOM CRUISE MOVIE?
8 Many of the scenes in the film were shot inside the Louvre, but using a fake Mona Lisa, for fear of damaging the real one by shining harsh lights on it. The damaging effect of luminosity can be seen in the trailer, which features a corpse whose entire nether region appears to have been obliterated by the rays of an Anglepoise lamp. EDITOR'S NOTE: AN EFFECT THEY USE EVERY WEEK ON "NCIS" TO PROTECT US FROM THE NAUGHTY BITS. (WE FEW, WE COUCHPOTATOED, WE INNOCENTS).
9 While critics are yet to see the film, an early review is featured in a leaflet from Whittlesey Baptist Church, in Cambridgeshire. “Fast-moving. Exciting. Gripping. And pure fiction!!” is the report in an A5 flyer, The Da Vinci Con. The film is called a “blockbuster”, although those unfamiliar with cheaply printed small-town literature should note that the inverted commas are not necessarily used in a “sarcastic” sense.
10 A reformed satanist, Vince Marshall, has petitioned to have the film banned in his native Malta. “We are in history now,” Leigh Teabing announces in the film. If you play this at high speed, it sounds like “We are in a stairway now”. If you play Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven backwards, it is thought to contain satanic messages.
11 Disregarding The Da Vinci Code itself, this week is one of the quietest in cinema history.
“I wouldn’t want another movie to open anywhere near this one,” Sony Pictures chief, Amy Pascal, has said. Her advice has been heeded by the fledgling film-maker Allan Buckwheat, who, after much deliberation, has moved the release date of his debut short, All About My Face, back by a month.
“ There might not be obvious crossover,” he said. “My film is a silent, four-hour-long, black-and-white chamber piece meditating on human bone structure, starring only me. Ron Howard’s is a fast-paced international thriller with an all-star cast. But it’s important to give yourself ample opportunity to pack in the punters.”
12 At the end of one trailer, the word “SEEK” appears alongside the letters “THSECDEO”. Unscrambling this gives you “seek the codes”, which might, if you have diminished leisure-time constraints, lead you to http://www.seekthecodes.com/, a weblog registered to someone called “Lisa S”. Lisa S is an anagram of “Silas”, the name of the film’s brainwashed killer monk.
Figuring this out will not make you a more rounded person and it takes, on average, about 23 minutes — the duration of an episode of the witty sitcom Arrested Development.
13 If you trace a route with a pen between the film’s different locations, the resulting sketch looks not unlike male genitalia. Puzzle hounds noting this fact may also be interested to find that an anagram of “Dan Brown” is “drawn nob”. EDITOR'S NOTE: WHICH IS BRIT FOR NAUGHTY BITS.
Poseidon director judges remake
By Peter Bowes
Los Angeles Poseidon, the big-budget remake of cult 1972 hit The Poseidon Adventure, opened in the United States last weekend.
Neame's films include The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie and Scrooge
Directed by Wolfgang Petersen, the German film-maker behind Troy EDITOR'S NOTE: SAND, NOT WATER. BUT NO ACTUAL GREEKS WERE HARMED! and The Perfect Storm, the film retells the story of a luxury ocean liner that capsizes under a freak wave.
The original film, which starred Gene Hackman, Ernest Borgnine and Shelley Winters, suffered a mauling by the critics but was a box-office sensation.
Over the decades it has endured as a classic disaster flick, thanks in part to its larger-than-life characters and campy humour.
"It's a complete mystery to me," says director Ronald Neame when asked to explain his film's appeal. "I never believed that it was more than just an average picture."
Produced by Irwin Allen, the film was nominated for eight Academy Awards, winning one for best song.
Neame, who recently celebrated his 95th birthday, believes the film may have succeeded because it was aimed at a very young audience.
"It was directed at 10- to 15-year olds and they loved it," says the Beverly Hills resident. EDITOR'S NOTE: AGE? IQ?
"I've had hundreds of letters from various people who were around 10, 11 and 12 when they originally saw it. Its effect on them was enormous." EDITOR'S NOTE: ACTUALLY...THAT WAS ABOUT HOW OLD I WAS WHEN I SAW IT, AND I LOVED IT. I READ THE BOOK, TOO. FUNNY.....
In Neame's opinion, Petersen is "a top-notch director - I admire all that he has done very, very much."
It was with some trepidation, therefore, that he attended an early screening of the German's modern-day interpretation of Poseidon starring Kurt Russell, Josh Lucas and Richard Dreyfuss.
"I was absolutely convinced he would make ours look like a whole lot of codswallop," he laughs.
"For the first 20 minutes I thought, 'Oh boy, this is so much better than ours.
"The special effects were great, we didn't really have much in the way of special effects, we did everything ourselves.
"The ship was wonderful and the turning over of the ship was more convincing and more believable, and I thought, 'well, good.'
"Naturally there was a part of me that would have rather it wasn't quite as good as mine, but nevertheless, I was happy for Warners."
However, Neame's enthusiasm for the opening of the movie was tempered by his disappointment at the way the story unravelled.
"For the first 10 minutes I thought, 'This is great because they are developing characters.'
The original featured Shelley Winters as one of the passengers
EDITOR'S NOTE: OUR DWEEBPAL ANDREW SPENT A LOT OF THE MOVIE ALIGNING THE CHARACTERS IN THE NEW ONE TO THE ONES IN THE OLD ONE. I THINK WE HAVE A NEW T-SHIRT.....'IS THAT ONE SHELLEY WINTERS?'
"But after the ship turned over, they didn't bother to go on developing those characters.
"It just became a noisy list of explosions, which I thought was a pity. By the end of the film I thought, 'Ours was better.' It's a terrible thing to say, but I really do."
Neame, who acknowledges he has made his share of "stinking pictures", believes Poseidon suffers from problems that beset many action films.
"The software - the story and the characters - gets in the way of the hardware, which are the explosions and all of that. It's very difficult to balance the two.
"I know our characters were cardboard, but we did at least have characters," he continues. "By God, I miss Shelley in the new one." EDITOR'S NOTE: AND SO DID ANDREW!
Though he last directed a film in 1990, Neame remains active in Hollywood. EDITOR'S NOTE: AT THE AGE OF 95, I WOULD THINK 'ACTIVE' IS A RELATIVE TERM?
He recently recorded a DVD commentary for the original Poseidon Adventure and says he still loves to see a good film.
As far as he is concerned, though, the new Poseidon does not come under that category.
"I think it was a mistake, if I may say so, to make it again because of its enormous success," he says.
"Everything at the moment has become too frenetic, partly because the stories are not good enough.
"So they try to make up for their lack of good characterisation and storytelling by quick cutting and frenetic use of the camera. And I think that's a pity." EDITOR'S NOTE: I'D LIKE TO MAKE SOME AGE JOKE, HERE, ABOUT HOW MUCH THE TECHNOLOGY HAS IMPROVED SINCE HIS DAY. SOMETHING ALONG THE LINES OF, THEY CAN NOW JUST PLUG THE PROJECTOR INTO AN ELECTRIC SOCKET, AND NO ONE HAS TO KEEP GOING BACK THERE AND FEEDING THE MONKEY CRANKING THE WHEEL.
BUT ALAS...HE ISN'T ENTIRELY WRONG IN HIS ASSESSMENT OF TODAY'S MOVIE BIZ.
DRAT. CAUSE I REALLY LIKED THAT MONKEY JOKE....
Increasingly, Americans Prefer Going to the Movies at Home
The start of the summer blockbuster movie season has Hollywood hoping for the usual stampede to the theaters, but now more than ever, the place that most Americans would rather watch movies is under their own roof. EDITOR'S NOTE: WIMPS. (AND WHAT DO THEY KNOW?! I MEAN, LOOK HOW THEY...THEM, THOSE OTHER FOOLS....DEAL WITH GOVERNMENT AND SUVS AND THE HEARTBREAK OF PSORIASIS)!
Three-quarters of all adults say they would prefer watching movies at home rather than in a theater, according to a Pew Research Center survey, up from 67% in 1994. EDITOR'S NOTE: 67%?! REALLY! JEEZ. (WELL, THEY DIDN'T ASK ME. AND THEY DIDN'T ASK ANY OF MY GROUP .......WHO GO TO MOVIES ALMOST WEEKLY).
The survey finds that more than seven-in-ten adults (71%) watch at least one movie a week, but the great bulk of this viewing occurs at home rather than in a theater.
While the most popular way to watch movies at home is on broadcast, cable or satellite television programming, fully half of the public says that at least once a week they a watch a movie on a DVD or by pay-per-view.
Viewing movies at home in this manner - which, like theater-going, requires consumers to pay for each movie they see - is roughly five times more prevalent than going out to the movies in a theater, the Pew survey finds.
This heightened preference for home movie viewing tracks a rapid expansion over the past decade in a variety of home movie viewing services and options. Beyond the familiar staple of movies on broadcast, cable, satellite or pay-per-view television, there are now faster turnaround times for first-release movie DVDs, as well as mail services (such as Netflix) and recording devices (such as TiVo) that make home movie viewing more convenient. Also, the burgeoning sales of large-screen, high-resolution television sets have created a home-theater setting in a growing number of American living rooms and dens. EDITOR'S NOTE: I HAVE A LOVELY BIG SCREEN, BUT THE EVENT OF GOING OUT TO A MOVIE, AND THE EXPERIENCE OF SEEING IT IN A THEATER IS STILL BETTER THAN SEEING IT AT HOME.
As more people say they prefer to watch movies at home, fewer are going out to theaters. Since 1995, when Pew last asked these questions, there has been a small overall decline in the percentage of adults who report that they go to theaters at least monthly. This decline, while modest among the full adult population, has been more substantial among those segments of the public most coveted by the theater industry - younger, better educated, and higher-income consumers. EDITOR'S NOTE: THE ONES WHO CAN AFFORD THE BETTER HOME THEATERS?
Are home viewing devices and services eating into the theater-going audience?
The Pew findings on this question are mixed.
Among people who rarely or never go to the theater, "the ease of waiting for the DVD" is the most oft-cited reason in our survey for not going to the theater more often.
But our survey finds that people with more home movie viewing devices and services are also the ones most likely to watch a lot of movies - both in the theater as well as at home. Movie buffs, in short, tend to watch a lot of movies, no matter what the venue. EDITOR'S NOTE: AHHHH...NOW THIS IS INTERESTING! AND I DON'T THINK I'VE SEEN THIS REPORTED BEFORE. SO IT ISN'T THAT PEOPLE HAVE HOME THEATERS AND DIGITAL CABLE; IT'S THAT THEY AREN'T BEING ENTICED BY THE MOVIE-WATCHING EXPERIENCE ITSELF. AT ANY LOCATION. HMMMMM....
These findings come from a new survey by the Pew Research Center, conducted by telephone with a nationally representative, randomly selected sample of 2,250 adults from February 8 through March 7, 2006.