Top positive review
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Memorable inspiring and emotionally-moving Songs & Music with Amazing performances by Anderson, Neely and Elliman!!!
on November 7, 2015
The review of Yvonne Elliman's 'Best Of' CD and the fact that she actually got her hallowed start portraying 'Mary Magdalene' in Anderew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's concept album Rock/Opera "Jesus Christ Superstar" which subsequently became a hit musical on Broadway and an extremely well-made film by Norman Jewison circa1973 (the acclaimed director had two-years earlier made the quintessential film-version of the amazing musical reflecting the joys & heartbreaks of East-European Jewish shtetl Life = "Fiddler on the Roof" in 1971) = prompted me to rewatch this movie on AMAZON instant video recently and I was greatly impressed as this filmed-version of "Jesus Christ Superstar" was even better (and more moving & impactful) than I had remembered since first seeing this on VHS in the mid-1980's
"Jesus Christ Superstar" was certainly a monumental creative undertaking = beginning as Rock/Opera 'concept' album in 1969 which was really a collection of songs capturing key episodes in the life of Jesus Christ heavily featuring character of Judas Iscariot not as any kind of pure villain - but as the philosophical counterpoint to Jesus himself = not a ready or eager 'believer' but a vigorous questioner and skeptic-cynic constantly warning Jesus that his unquestioning belief (that he is the true Messiah) and his growing number of devoted followers will no doubt raise the retaliatory ire of those established-ensconced powers that will most certainly view Jesus as a mortal-threat to their unchallenged rule.
All the songs and melodies with Words by Tim Rice (inspired by the New Testament of course) and Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber are greatly-memorable, very effective in telling the story and delineating the characters, and ultimately tremendously emotionally moving. Ted Neely seems authentic as Jesus = portraying Jesus with calm-tranquility, self reflection and inner-strength that evokes the sense of genuine enlightenment ==> but Neely is also capable of conveying Jesus' rage-wrath lashing-out against injustice especially in the scene where Jesus rails against the unremitting avarice of the moneychangers and violently overturns their market tables + but also when he rages against Judas for accusing Mary Magdalene of being a negative-influence that should depart his presence, and finally when he confronts/reveals Judas' plans for betrayal towards finale.
As mentioned many of the songs & melodies by Lloyd-Webber and Rice are quite moving & indelibly impactful = communicating the sense of intensity & tension between Jesus and Judas (as friends who inexorably become adversaries even enemies for a time) and the sense of devotion and Love that Mary Magdalene has for Jesus, even when she doesn't know exactly how to fully-express her inner feelings (Yvonne Elliman's vocals and acting authentically portray this tenuous and ultimately tragic relationship and her song "I Don't know how to Love Him" is powerfully moving and perhaps one of the absolute finest vocal performances ever captured on film)
I was way to young to see this when it first came to theaters - I first watched this on VHS in the mid-80's - and I recently re-watched on AMAZON instant video.
Two additional points: in reading some older historical-reviews when this film was first released in 1973 it seems that the two major criticisms of the time were that: 1) Judas was portrayed as the only major Black character in the film; and 2) some thought the story-line had shades of anti-Semitism because it appeared the Jewish populace was in favor of Jesus' crucifixion.
After watching this film again, my own comments would be that Carl Anderson's performance of 'Judas Iscariot' is so amazingly powerful, intelligent and dignified that as mentioned before he comes across as much more of an ultimate skeptic, cynic and eternal questioner (as opposed to outright villain) = Judas here seems to truly admire Jesus and even his message and is utterly remorseful once realizing the grave error of his actions toward finale; on point 2) I cannot believe that director Norman Jewison would ever intend to add anti-Semitic elements to this story = Jewison had just directed the incredible film-version of "Fiddler on the Roof" two years prior which presented a completely sympathetic and wholly-understanding-empathic view of Jewish shtetl Life (both its great joys & tragedies) and "Fiddler" remains one of the best and most popular movies (to this Day) reflecting on the Yiddish experience in Eastern-Europe. Also, all movies about Jesus show to varying degrees that the temple 'Pharisees' were of course partly to blame for Jesus' hand-over to the Romans, but it is always critical to remember that Jesus lived as a Jew (among the Jewish community) for his entire life on Earth (and most of his original followers were Jews themselves) - and it has also been historically-documented that the very early Christian & Jewish communities lived in relative harmony and shared a number of customs and even celebrations together (early on = at least during the first few Centuries AD)
Note: another important element that warrants this film 5-Stars is the beautiful and absolutely-stunning photography filmed entirely on location in Israel, by cinematographer Douglas Slocombe (who later served as Steven Spielberg's chosen cinematographer on the first two 'Indiana Jones' movies)