The trouble-prone Mel Gibson has gone off and made it hard to defend himself again.
There were early rumors that Gibson was preparing to use some personal muscle to clear out a Mexican prison in order to shoot his latest movie, reportedly to be action flick “How I Spent My Summer Vacation,” which Gibson wrote and in which he also stars “as a career criminal who is forced to pick up new survival skills while serving a sentence in a rough Mexican prison.”
That was no problem for the governor of Veracruz, Herrera Beltran; Gibson had cultivated good relations while shooting “Apocalypto” there (donating a million dollars for flood-relief housing), and Beltran announced proudly a new “grand production” from “our friend, the actor and producer Mel Gibson.”
More than 200 inmates from a prison there were transferred to four other jails to make room for the production. Angry relatives — concerned they’d have to pay more to travel further for visits — protested and briefly clashed with police, something that can’t help but make you think that yes, this is kind of a jerk-off abuse of power.
In recent years, Gibson’s alienated a lot of people, reducing himself to a drunken, anti-Semitic sputterer obsessed with peculiarly gory forms of violence. And I’m not a particularly big admirer of either “The Passion of the Christ” or “Apocalypto,” the two big products of the Gibson-as-rogue-auteur era (temporarily on pause, it seems, while Gibson tries to resuscitate his acting career).
But if we’re going to sit around and take Vincent Gallo seriously — a man who says offensive, ridiculous things all the time that we’re pretty much forced to take as ironic — we might as well take Gibson seriously as well. Whatever his flaws as a human, Gibson’s precisely in the mold of that breed of aggressively self-outcasting directors people love to champion despite widespread disapproval: Larry Clark, Harmony Korine, Gallo, and so on.
Gibson’s pursuing a fixated vision of violence as private, obscure and disgusting as any of those other guys. It’s like someone who should be one of those “outsider artists” suddenly got their hands on some real money and went haywire. That doesn’t make his movies any less tedious to sit through — but, for me, that’s true of all of them. And as pathological fixations go, his are pretty compelling. (As a friend of mine one noted, “The Passion” really isn’t that far from “Salo.”)
[Photos: Mel Gibson on the set of “Apocalypto,” Buena Vista Pictures, 2006; Vincent Gallo in “The Brown Bunny,” Wellspring Media, 2004]