Wednesday, July 7, 2021

Monsieur Cinéma card for "Godspell"

We recently watched a gorgeous Blu-ray version of 1973's Godspell, so now seems like a good time to post this Monsieur Cinéma collector's card for the film.1

The card measures about 5 inches by 8 inches. The French text on the back lists the main credits, actors, summary and a short history of the film. The Des Fiches de Monsieur Cinéma cards have been published since 1976 and new ones are still being produced, at a rate of three dozen a month. According to a translated version of its website, more than 17,000 cards have been produced since 1976. Not all cards are for films; some are for actors and directors. (The only other card I have is the one for Punch-Drunk Love.) The translation also notes that the series was created by Pierre Tchernia ("Monsieur Cinéma") and is written by 28 specialists.

My history with Godspell dates to the late 1970s, when I remember watching it on TV in Clayton, New Jersey, and not fully understanding it. I have a recollection of singing "Day by Day" in middle school chorus, but now I'm wondering if that's a false memory, or if I've conflated it with something else (Barry Manilow's "Daybreak," which we definitely sang?) I mean, "Day by Day" is pretty short for a musical selection and, furthermore, it doesn't seem to adhere to the desired separation of church and state we'd prefer to see in public schools (though in my case we're talking rural Pennsylvania in the early 1980s).

Other than being a quality musical, Godspell also now serves as an amazing time capsule of what New York City looked like in the early 1970s (and without people other than the cast members in most shots!). That includes scenes showing — and shots taken atop — the World Trade Center.

In a 2006 article for The Washington Post, Jonathan Padget writes: "[In] the especially breathtaking moment ... the performers give up the streets for rooftops, ultimately singing and dancing their hearts out atop the unfinished World Trade Center. It's a scene punctuated with dramatic aerial camerawork that pulls away from the cast until the twin towers stand in full view, proudly staking their brash, fresh claim on the Manhattan skyline."

My favorite bit of Godspell movie trivia is that Victor Garber, who plays Jesus, started his association with Godspell in the 1972 Toronto production alongside a group of unknown young actors who were just starting their own careers: Gilda Radner, Eugene Levy, Martin Short, Andrea Martin and (joining the cast later) Dave Thomas. And the show's musical director was Paul Shaffer!
1. Last three films watched: Godspell, Phantom Thread, Kagemusha.

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