G, 108 min.
Director: Norman Jewison
Writers: Melvyn Bragg, Norman Jewison, Tim Rice (book, lyrics, based on the rock opera by), Andrew Lloyd Webber (music, based on the rock opera by)
Starring: Ted Neeley, Carl Anderson, Yvonne Elliman, Barry Dennen, Bob Bingham, Larry T. Marshall, Joshua Mostel, Kurt Yaghjian, Paul Thomas
Yeah, yeah, yeah yeah. I know. “Jesus Christ Superstar” is not a Christmas movie. The birth of Jesus isn’t even mentioned in it. It’s all about his death. But, he’s not entirely unrelated to the subject of Christmas. In fact he’s the reason, as they say. So I’m counting it.
Now, beyond the fact that this isn’t really a Christmas movie, it’s a rather weird movie. Adapted from the hit Broadway musical by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber, Norman Jewison’s 1973 film is high concept, possibly too much so for today’s audiences. That’s one of its appeals to me. I’m always turned on by the prospect of broadening people’s horizons through film.
A true rock opera, “Jesus Christ Superstar” tells of Jesus’s final days, after he’s become renowned in Jerusalem as a prophet, and to many the Son of God. Judas, however, is growing sick of the hypocrisy he thinks he sees in Jesus’ own self worth. All of this is told through song, with no dialogue whatsoever. And I have to admit; even several days after seeing it, I’m still having trouble getting some of the tunes out of my head. What’s the buzz, indeed?
I’ve never really been much for musicals; however, the past decade of movie musicals has gone a way toward changing my opinion of them. When they’re done in the rock and roll spirit as what Jewison, Melvin Bragg, Rice and Webber have produced here, I’m much more open to them. The free spirited nature of it, the almost Brechtian admission that this is a bunch of people pretending the story, rather than some sort of earnest sale of people singing their emotions for real, helps the concept sit better with me.