For Reel


All That Jazz (1979)
September 6, 2015, 12:26 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Bob Fosse
3.5 Stars
All That JazzGiven the accusations regarding his self-indulgent impulses, it’s curious that Bob Fosse modeled his quasi-biopic after Federico Fellini’s 8 1/2–a move that suggests that Fosse isn’t merely touting his singular talents, but trying to seek validation by placing himself alongside the great artists who have come before him. More than the sum of its grandiosities, All That Jazz is a film that feels desperate, sometimes even pathetic. Fittingly, Roy Scheider plays the chain-smoking, speed-addled Joe Gideon as a man just barely hanging on, his “It’s showtime, folks!” serving as a mantra that feels less truthful each time it leaves his lips. In a great scene, dancers are rehearsing a number that isn’t quite working. Gideon, conscious of all the eyes looking to him for guidance, tells the dancers to simply repeat what they had just done before turning his back to the rehearsal. The scene summarizes both Gideon’s selfishness and the tremendous anxiety of directing–of knowing something isn’t working, but not knowing how to solve it. Even in the spirit of flamboyance, the editing can sometimes be a bit much–both the camera and the film’s editing suggest dance, but on occasion the editing distracts from the actual dancing on screen–but even skeptics of the film are likely to be won over by the sheer extravagance of the final, phantasmagorical number.



Cabaret (1972)
August 27, 2012, 6:28 am
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Bob Fosse

Simplistic and messy, Cabaret is nonetheless one of the great pleasures of 1970s American cinema, featuring two impossibly charismatic performances and a haunting sequence in which, at a beer garden, a boy sings a song that only gradually reveals itself to be about the National Socialist Party. Michael York stars as a reserved Englishman who moves into the boarding house of an American artist in 1931 Berlin. She is played by Liza Minnelli in the role of a prototypical manic pixie dream girl – rife with appealing quirks, but clearly mentally unstable and nauseatingly self-involved. The rise of Nazism concurs with a frivolous ménage à trois, as if to intentionally undermine the contained, interpersonal relationship that clearly matters little in the dawn of the second World War. While Minnelli and York pay little mind to the state of the country, Joel Grey’s flamboyant emcee is politically-conscious, casually mocking the Nazis in an early number. At the end of the film, when the Nazis have finally taken seats in his cabaret – a location which serves as the last joyous monument of hope and freedom in the city – his energy reeks more of desperation, as if in performing he means to construct a wall between he and those who pose a threat to the continued happiness of he and his audience.