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April 25, 2011

The 1970s were an intriguing time; serial killers ran rapid, social movements continued to rise, political scandals rocked the world, and American’s continued to endure an escalating and unpopular war. However, my interpretation of the 70s has been skewed by cinema. From my perspective in the 1970s New York City was the only city in existence, musicals were the norm, and fabulous locks of hair as well as bare-chested men were a must. Saturday Night Fever, Jesus Christ Superstar, Hair, and Grease are among the many films that have shaped my opinion of the time and 1973’s hippie musical Godspell only strengthens that stereotype.  With emphasis on bright colors and extravagant dance numbers set in the gritty streets of New York, Godspell is a physically beautiful film that has captured the hearts of musical theater buffs everywhere  regardless of how lackluster, trite, and nonsensical the story is.

Godspell is without a doubt a product of its time. Set during the waning but still relevant years of the “hippie,” the film follows a group of erratic and artsy youth living in New York City. The group drop their belongings and jobs to follow in the footsteps of a Jesus type figure dawning suspenders, a full head of strawberry blond hair, and a Superman shirt. There’s not much of a plot as the film follows the group of wanderers who find contentment dancing around the city, listening to, and reenacting the parables and proverbs of their Jesus. When musical skits are not taking place the only events that happen are frolicking followed by quick conversation that immediately turns into more song and dance. There’s not much of a story to follow or individuals to know or connect with. Characters are nameless and have no purpose except to follow happily and aimlessly behind their eccentric and quirky leader, therefore my eyes stayed glued to the clock longing for a solution in the form of closing credits.

Godspell isn’t a bad film, it’s just not great. It’s one of those film’s that’s just mediocre. It starts with promise and potential of an interesting portrayal of the life of Jesus in a more modern and liberal world, however, unlike the story of Biblical Jesus Godspell lacks conflict, development, and plain out interest. Where Bible Jesus is an intelligent heartfelt man with a strong sense of sarcasm and humor, Godspell’s Jesus doesn’t seem to be anything more than an acid dropping theater geek with no enemies or purpose. His followers are just as void of motivation than he is as no one is given defining characteristics outside of their outfits. But those are the unbearable parts of the film, the upsides are its technical aspects. Aside from the beautifully vibrant costume design, the film’s mise-en-scene is astounding. The camera’s fluidity and editing emphasizes comedic moments at the right times as well as the film’s astonishing perfectly blocked choreography, one of the major strengths of the film. Godspell is a decent film if you have a sore spot for musicals or Jesus, however, proceed with caution as the film plays out much like chewing gum. It’s enjoyable for a short amount of time but if you chew long enough you lose flavor and even substance.

My reaction in a nutshell:

AVOID IT – Unless you really love Musicals and Jesus.

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