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Review: Jesus Christ Superstar

Updated: Mar 30, 2022


Director: Norman Jewison

Writers: Melvyn Bragg (screenplay), Norman Jewison (screenplay),Tim Rice (book)

Genre : Drama; Musical

Cast: Ted Neeley, Carl Anderson, Yvonne Elliman

Release year: 1973

Runtime : 108 min

When I first heard of a musical about Jesus Christ, I was cynical. On one hand I absolutely love musicals (when done well that is), but I am agnostic and expected some wishy-washy gospel film. But since I am a diehard vintage indie fan, I had no choice but to give it a go. This film left me dumbfounded.

We follow Jesus (Ted Neeley) and his entourage over the last days witnessing disciples’ (mainly Judas (Carl Anderson)) anxiety, his relationship with Mary (Yvonne Elliman) and a few other juicy Bible bits. The remarkable thing is seeing a rational version of these events and Jesus’ own struggle with his superstardom and his faith. In many films about Christ, the character falls flat unable to grip us in his shrilly majestic meme. Few times has this story been made real enough to relate to.

While the whole film is sung, the drama manages to come through seamlessly. The characters and makeshift sets are as believable as the lyrics. In spite of all the musical dramatics, perhaps even because of these, there were some hilarious moments.

Norman Jewison’s 1973 film which is based on the Rice-Webber opera of the same name succeeds against the odds. Though I have not seen the play, apparently the music and words are quite tightly adapted. With that classic 70s aesthetic, the film has a nostalgic ambience while giving a modern logic to the saga.

If churches showed this movie, perhaps I too would follow Christ. Maybe that’s taking it too far, but this was an earnest and dazzling piece of cinema that really did rock my world!

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