Sunday, September 24, 2006

Jesus Christ Superstar and the beginning of Ramadan

Ramadan begins this weekend and I haven't even thought about fasting...well I have thought about, just not done anything. My heart isn't in it this year...I think that I might have said that last year...hummm... I have felt out of balance for a long time now, and I am trying to find that part of me that has been missing. Maybe it is my faith that's faltering...maybe I just stopped listening to that little voice. But this isn't really what I want to talk about....what I want to talk about is...

Jesus Christ Superstar.

I am watching it on TV right now, and I find that the hippie references, and the anachronisms...I get it, I understand what they are trying to do...I just find it annoying. I think that it is the trying to link the whole peace movement to Christainity thing, cause it didn't seem to work that well in the 60's. I have a copy of the bible that was from my Mom called (please insert Charleton-Heston-as-God-voice here)"THE WAY". It has pictures of flower children on the cover. Yeah, it never helped me take the bible more seriously...it just made me giggle.

Back to the movie...Mary "the whore"is a native american, Judas is African American----I know they were trying to be all multicultrual and stuff, but are they really sending the right message? Something just tells me that the Pharses really wouldn't show off their rock solid abs. The Roman guards are wearing pots on their heads and a lovely shade of lavender! Then there is also shots of tanks driving through the deserts and fighter planes flying around...I mean what are they trying to achieve? Did they think that the Palestinians and the Israelis were going to sit down, watch the movie, and then turn to each other and say "oh my gosh...we should have been paying attention to Jesus the whole time, let's be friends and make macramae plant holders for our peace flowers!" Plah..leese. The movie came out in 1973....I think that they were probably too busy having, say, a war...to bother going to the movie premier.

Seriously though, I still do and will always love that song, "I don't know how to love him" and Jesus can really wail.

1 comment:

Kerrith Black said...

Wow! Were you angry and bitter when you were watching this? Are you also against Casablanca because it looks too 1940's or the Wizard of Oz because Technicolor is so fake?

You have to remember the audience for the original stage show in the 1960's. It was a British counter culture audience. This means that in addition to the anti-government and anti-war stance of the American hippy movement it also had an anti-authority movement directed at the Anglican church. British hippies were condemning religion along with the government as being the root problem with society. Superstar was Andrew Lloyd Webber's attempt to reconnect the ideals of the counter culture movement by pointing out the parallels to the message of Jesus with that as the back drop.

The casting of the film comes almost entirely from the stage production which was based on who could perform these musical numbers on stage, rather than who looks right for the part. Very few actors could hit the high notes required of Ted Neely as Christ or have the vocal range of Carl Andersen as Judas. In fact, Ted Neely is still starring in the role in the revival production touring now. As for the multi-cultural nature of the cast, we live in a society that believes Jesus, a Jew from Gallilee, is a blond haired and blue eyed white guy. I think if we can swallow that, then a black Judas is not that big of a deal. As for the actress who played Mary Magdelene, she is Asian, not native American. But the same argument stands.

The use of Tanks and Fighter jets in connection to the Roman army was just a stylized attempt to continue to connect the story with the contemporary anti-war movement. It is not in reference to the Jews and Arabs in Israel and that conflict. It is a criticism of Vietnam. Filming in Israel was an attempt to tell the old story on location with the original spots but to make it relevent to a contemporary audience by presenting it with a modern look and feel.

At the very least, it offers a good window into late 60's and early 70's pop culture with good music by Webber and Tim Rice. Also, it must have accomplished some of its goals. It was a very successful play and movie. It also received positive praise from most organized Christian churches. I think the only major exception was the Baptists. Even a Catholic tribunal of Italian Cardinals gave the film a positive review.

Anyway, if the film bothers you, my advice is to see it on stage. It is a really good show that lacks the over the top melodrama of Webber's later work. It is also some of the best music he has ever written.