Monday, April 13, 2009

Watching "Jesus Christ, Superstar," with the Commentary On

Yesterday, we watched Jesus Christ, Superstar, which we had never seen before. Then we watched it with the commentary track on. We meant to just watch the first bit, to see where the movie was filmed, but I found it oddly compelling, so we kept watching it.

Norman Jewison, the director, and the actor who played Jesus were the people doing the commentary. The actor who played Jesus has continued to play Jesus right up to this day. At first, I thought, how unusual. But then I thought that many of us probably have a similar career trajectory: we start doing something, never realizing we may be doing it 35 years later.

Think of the person who gets a Ph.D. in English. That person probably starts teaching in graduate school, if he/she is lucky. That person may dream of teaching the subject of the dissertation, but is likely to continue to teach Composition classes that are similar to the ones taught in graduate school. One wakes up and it's several decades after graduate school, and one is still teaching Composition.

The artist part of me was interested in how the movie was made. The group of actors was taken to Israel, and they created the movie. They were fairly isolated, which led to an intense bond. I suspect that experience made the movie richer.

Some of my favorite movies have a similar approach to the making of the movie. I'm thinking primarily of The Big Chill, where the actors were in a part of South Carolina which was fairly isolated in the early 80's, and so they spent their off-hours together, which led believability to what they portrayed during filming.

It also makes me wonder about the implications for those of us involved in more isolated arts. What would happen if we put a lot of poets together in an isolated location to create something? I suppose there could be similar dynamics at work at writer's colonies and MFA programs--the idea that I might find a community of writers has always been what has attracted me to MFA programs.

I love what I learn about other art forms by listening to movie commentaries. I only despair at the fact that it means I have to not only watch the movie once, but several times, to get the full benefit. At one time, the fact that I got all those extras made DVDs seem like a great bargain. Now, I find it hard to find time to watch a movie once, let alone multiple times.

I like blogs for much the same reason: they give me insight into the creative process of writers and a window into their lives.

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