‘The Da Vinci Code’ controversy continues as premiere curtains go up
CANNES, France – The director huffed, offended believers protested and the critics carped as “The Da Vinci Code” premiered and started its march around the world Wednesday.Ron Howard, who adapted Dan Brown’s worldwide megaselling novel to the big screen, had a suggestion Wednesday for people riled by the way Christian history is depicted in the film: If you suspect the movie will upset you, don’t go see it.”Da Vinci” opened at the Cannes Film Festival Wednesday with a black-tie premiere that brought stars Tom Hanks, Audrey Tautou, Ian McKellen and Paul Bettany onto Cannes’ famous red carpet.Beforehand, Howard answered questions about “Da Vinci” protests around the world – and also in Cannes, where a Roman Catholic nun wearing a brown habit kneeled and said a rosary at the foot of the red carpet, as well as in Paris, the setting of much of the book, where 200 Roman Catholics prayed and sang outside a theater showing the film.”There’s no question that the film is likely to be upsetting to some people,” Howard told reporters. “My advice, since virtually no one has really seen the movie yet, is to not go see the movie if you think you’re going to be upset. Wait. Talk to somebody who has seen it. Discuss it. And then arrive at an opinion about the movie itself.””Again: This is supposed to be entertainment, it’s not theology,” he said.The screen adaptation, like the novel, suggests that Jesus Christ was married to Mary Magdalene and fathered a child. One reporter asked the cast if they believed Christ was married.Star Tom Hanks quipped, “Well, I wasn’t around.”Hanks said he had not felt pressure from religious groups. He added that his religious heritage “communicates that our sins have been taken away, not our brains.”Christian groups from various countries, including South Korea, Thailand, India and France have protested the movie, planning boycotts, a hunger strike and attempts to block or shorten screenings.In India, the government even delayed the premiere, putting it on a temporary hold while it weighs complaints by Catholic groups that want the film banned. A decision is not expected before Friday.Lobbyists in Thailand persuaded local censors to cut the final 10 minutes out of the film, but the censors later reversed their position after Columbia Pictures appealed.Australian Christians bought cinema advertisements challenging the movie’s plot. Hong Kong’s Catholic church has organized forums to “clarify the facts.”In Cannes, the British nun who took her protest to the red carpet, Sister Mary Michael, prayed before a wooden cross.”I think this movie will confuse people,” she explained. “The world is a mess, and Jesus has the answers.”In Paris, dozens of riot police forced the 200 protesters to move to the other side of the Boulevard Saint-Germain, a main Left Bank thoroughfare where the Odeon theater was showing “Da Vinci.””We are, in fact, being attacked by a not-so-innocent fiction that will provide one more dreadful occasion to unleash hatred for Jesus Christ and his disciples,” said the Rev. Xavier Beauvais of the St. Nicolas du Chardonnet church – known for its traditionalist reading of the scriptures.Opus Dei, the conservative Catholic movement depicted as a murderous cult in “The Da Vinci Code,” invited media to one of its vocational schools in a working-class section of Rome to show off its work training young people to be mechanics, electricians and chefs.”Soon this regrettable but fleeting episode will be forgotten,” said Opus Dei spokesman Manuel Sanchez Hurtado. “Let us hope that its lessons about mutual respect and understanding are not.””The Da Vinci Code” was kept under wraps until the first press screenings here Tuesday, which brought a few whistles from critics and lukewarm reviews. Associated Press critic Christy Lemire found the movie “cursory and rushed.”A few hours before it premiered in Cannes, an audience in Beijing became the first public viewers of the film. China has seen little of the controversy that “The Da Vinci Code” has elicited elsewhere. Debates have been limited and Catholics are a small minority, though some are upset about the movie.
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