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Saturday, January 3

It seems that my mind and body are equipped for one task at the moment - watching movies. My TV, video and DVD player have never had such a concentrated bout of use.

Yesterday I watched Gigi which is a charming and harmless movie, very much in the vein of My Fair Lady, a movie it predates by 6 years. However, there's no doubt that they capitalised on the success of the stage show of My Fair Lady to attract people to see Gigi, the next show Lerner and Loewe wrote. My Fair Lady was still running on the stage when Gigi was released. Those who chose to classify this musical as a screen equivalent to My Fair Lady were imbeciles. Gigi stands alone as a sweet enough story of love rising out of the superficial nature of a Parisian society. There are few similarities between the stories, the only common points being a pretty, youthful female star and a few lessons in etiquette for said young lady. Leslie Caron does have an elfin quality, similar to Audrey Hepburn, but the viewers in 1958 were not to know that Ms Hepburn would be the face of My Fair Lady 6 years in the future! Interestingly, most of the famous songs in Gigi are sung by men, with Gigi herself getting few memorable musical moments.

The pace and direction of Gigi was to my liking and, although it ran over my 90 minute ideal movie length, it did so with panache and kept me entertained. I'm a big fan of Lerner and Loewe and I'm glad that it was one of their shows (My Fair Lady, of course) which broke the record held by Oklahoma! for the longest running musical. Ha!

This morning, rather than do anything productive. (Answers on a postcard if you have any suggestions for what to do on a Saturday morning.) I sat and watched the movie of Jesus Christ Superstar. I'd wanted to see this, having read about it in Tim Rice's autobiography. I didn't have massive expectations. The good news is that it's a great musical, though I'm beginning to notice some of its lyrical faults a lot more (but they're a very small percentage of the whole). Even better, there was an extra scene in the movie, which I'd not heard or seen anywhere else - this had some classic Tim Rice word play in it, so it was a true gem to discover. Sadly, a lot of this movie is not worth watching, not if you compare it to the drama of a well-directed stage version. I've seen a couple of those, one of which is the video version of the 1990's production. I think that part of the problem with Jesus Christ Superstar is that it was such a phenomenonal success from the moment of its release that nobody had time to sit down and take stock of where its strengths and weaknesses lay. The libretto has barely changed over the years, yet people are much more capable of making a great show out of it now than they were when swept along by its immediate success. My reaction to the movie was that it was put together quickly on a short budget with a minimal regard for the gift to posterity that a movie could be.

Both the two previous musical films mentioned had their score conducted by Andre Previn. In Gigi, I could tell that there was much interpretation and love in the musical direction. In fact, it's one of the first times that I've felt a movie soundtrack surpassed a more modern stage version's soundtrack (apologies to the 1985 London Cast). With Jesus Christ Superstar, perhaps biased a little by Tim Rice's assertions in his book, I felt that Mr Previn didn't really give a damn. He reportedly didn't think much of the score and I can't help but feel that that shows. Some of the tempos were questionable, several of the moments lost. Perhaps there were other pressures at work causing this. I don't know.

So, at half past one, having watched Jesus Christ Superstar, what shall I do? I know... I think I'll watch the only movie you can follow Jesus Christ Superstar with: The Life of Brian!


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