In recent weeks, the Vatican has made attack after attack on the upcoming movie version of The Da Vinci Code opening May 19, but that’s not stopping filmgoers in predominantly Catholic countries from rushing out to buy tickets. I’m told that the forthcoming showings of Da Vinci Code are already sold out, or almost sold out, in Italy, Spain and Mexico based on advance ticket sales. The latest Vatican salvo was reported today: in an anti-Da Vinci Code documentary, Cardinal Francis Arinze, a Nigerian who was considered a candidate for pope last year, says Christians should respond to the book and film with legal action because both offend Christ and the Church. Arinze’s appeal comes after another high Vatican official called for a boycott of the film. The Vatican’s position is that because other religions would never stand for offences against their beliefs, Christians should get tough. Meanwhile, all these attacks are simply generating even more publicity for the already well-hyped film. Perhaps Sony, the producer of the movie, has the Vatican on PR retainer?

The Italian embrace of Da Vinci Code follows this April incident: the Interior Ministry removed a promotional movie poster from the scaffolding of a Rome church undergoing renovation after its clergymen complained. The enormous signage, featuring a picture of Da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa” and the title of the upcoming film, had been plastered for a few weeks on the  scaffolded facade of the church of St. Pantaleo, located just off a major thoroughfare in Rome’s historic center. A spokesman for Rome’s Vicariate said the poster was “causing a problem” because “this movie is not reputed to be particularly appreciated by ecclesiastic circles.”

Meanwhile, the movie’s world premiere kicks off the 59th annual Cannes Film Festival. Sony plans an absurdly lavish international junket aboard a specially outfitted Eurostar train which will be rerouted from London’s Waterloo Station straight to Cannes (instead of Paris) for “all sorts of old-fashioned Hollywood fun” to amuse the film’s stars and the world’s press, sources gush. I’ve learned each train car will be decorated like a different country to signify the different chapters of the book.

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