Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Movie #205: Godspell

Godspell is a 1973 film version of the musical of the same name, starring Victor Garber, David Haskell, and eight other folks.

The show is basically the Gospel of Matthew set to 70s music. In the movie, eight people are going about their days, and then John the Baptist (Haskell) appears to them, baptizes them in a fountain, and makes ready for Jesus (Garber) to show up. And then they hit a junkyard and do themselves up like clowns, and perform a bunch of parables. It's all very light, joyous and playful.

But you know how this ends. Judas (same role as John) betrays Jesus and he gets crucified (well, hung from a chain-link fence with red cloth) and "dies".

I have some history with this show. I was in it when I was in college, and the musical director, though younger than me, was a fucking musical genius. He and I ended up dating for a while - he was really my first relationship with a man that had a romantic as well as a sexual component. Matt was murdered in 2008 by two of his students in Vegas. I hadn't spoken to him in years, but the last time I did, he told me that he'd been pretty heavily in love with me during our relationship. I never knew that, and I certainly didn't treat him like I should have (I was in my 20s, my head wasn't on straight). Anyway. All that means for our purposes is that I didn't get through "On the Willows," which he sang in our production, without crying.

Sorry for the digression. Movie. Well, I'm not Christian, but this show has always had an effect on me, and it kinda still does. I really enjoy that the first two-thirds of it are so simple and colorful and playful, and then it switches pretty quickly once we realize that, no, Jesus has to die.

Now, we can get into the debates about whether that actually means anything in the context of the story. Sure, it's moving and all, but only if you accept the premise. There's a lot in the show (and in the Gospel) like that - "Love God above all" only works if you accept that there is a god and that he's worthy of that love, and I don't. And it's really amazing how much of the morality and parables are dependent on that. The whole "lilies of the field" thing, for instance, is only comforting or meaningful if you accept that god exists. And so on.

And yet - the earnestness with which this cast performs this show, and the general love that they show one another, is fun to watch. Even if the larger messages are not really useful, the show is fun, bright, and, again, playful.

And though I'm not any kind of theist anymore, I can't quite bring myself to say I don't like it. I've got too much attached to it.

My Grade: B
Rewatch value: Low

Next up: Goldeneye