It's time for the obligatory update on you know what. In the media blitz, the most interesting angle (at least to me) is that the New York Times has joined the Los Angeles Times in wondering out loud about Sony Pictures' decision not to allow critics to dissect the movie in advance. Here is how reporter Sharon Waxman deals with the buzz and the whispers:
In contemporary Hollywood, movies released without first undergoing test screenings, media screenings, "tastemaker" screenings and screenings for critics are fairly rare; that course is usually reserved for duds that studios would rather nobody notice. For a movie like Sony's "Da Vinci Code" -- with huge anticipation, a blockbuster-size budget, a major movie star in Tom Hanks, an Oscar-winning director in Ron Howard and source material read by tens of millions of fans -- it is something close to unprecedented. Yet that has been the studio's course.
"The Da Vinci Code" will make its debut at the Cannes Film Festival on Wednesday night. Critics and other journalists will first see the movie on Tuesday night, barely allowing them time to write their articles for the Wednesday premiere and Friday opening in theaters around the world.
It is also clear that much of this tension and intrigue is linked to the movie's strong evangelistic message that millions and millions of Christians have been faked out for 1,700 years or so. Nameless studio checkwriters put it this way:
The concerns, said executives involved with the picture, were that information about the film could start a nit-picking debate over the filmmaker's choices in adapting the book, rather than focus on the movie overall, or that it might fuel religious opposition to the film.
It is possible, of course, that this is the usual delay with special affects -- a modern fact of life for directors who have to burn the candles at both ends until minutes before shipping the prints to the studio lords. Ask Peter Jackson.
Then again, the secrecy may be linked to author Dan Brown's all-consuming desire for stealth and mystery. Will he, for example, play any role in the press junket for the movie? Will he do interviews with real journalists? The problem with doing real interviews with real interviewers is that they often ask real questions.
Yesterday, Catholic scribe Amy Welborn -- who knows a thing or two about the DVC wars -- posted a great example of this, using Lexis-Nexis to recover some of an April 26, 2003, NPR Weekend Edition interview that Linda Wertheimer did with Brown. Here is the key quote to remember, during a week in which Ron Howard, Tom Hanks and the Sony brass will endlessly repeat their mantra that everyone should lighten up and remember that this is "just fiction."
What does Brown say about that?
WERTHEIMER: How long does it take you to research a book like this? I assume that, among other things, you would hear from the world if you've got anything wrong.
Mr. BROWN: Certainly. And it takes me about two and a half years to entirely research and write a book like this. Before I even started writing a page, I'd spent a year in research, and a lot of the research for "Angels and Demons" that I did in Vatican City played into this book, as well as my art history training in Seville.
WERTHEIMER: You're trying not to get too fictional with the facts here?
Mr. BROWN: Absolutely. The only thing fictional in "The Da Vinci Code" is the characters and the action that takes place. All of the locations, the paintings, the ancient history, the secret documents, the rituals, all of this is factual.
See? The ancient history, etc., is all factual.