Wow, I dropped this ball like it was New Year’s Rockin Eve. Sorry. No specific excuse; suffice to say this past week is not gonna make it to my top 10 cherished memories of all time.
All That Jazz is a movie that I love. It is a movie that I hate. What makes it unique is that somehow these things are not actually contradictory; it’s something about how thoroughly committed Fosse is to an outrageously embarrassing self-indulgence that not only redeems the movie but actually makes it great.
Putting aside its influence–it very clearly comes after Fellini’s 8½, and even more clearly comes before The Singing Detective, which went on to become even more influential in its time–and concentrating only the film in itself, there’s still plenty to discuss.
[li]It was photographed by Fellini’s cinematographer, which is pretty evident in the scenes with the Angel of Death[/li][li]The absolute perfection of each song its context, no matter how surprising the song choice[/li][li]The strange way Fosse can take a scene which, on its face would seem to be overdone, melodramatic, sentimental, or whatever, and just by his total commitment to vomiting out all his personal demons and sprinkle them with the rhinestones of his clear belief in his own genius, make it heroically–if disturbingly–well, awesome[/li][li]The uncanny performance by Roy Scheider, never thought of (by me at least) as much of an actor, but who’s crucial to how the whole thing hangs together[/li][li]Ann Reinking’s performance. Again, not really an actor. But damn. Was she a masochist, to put herself through that? Or was she really that committed to Fosse, that she would slog herself through that shit to make his art work?[/li][li]Leland Palmer. NOT an actress. Actually, not even in this movie. But her oversized, stagey, BROADWAY performance as the ex wife is crucial to the sense of the inseparable entanglement of his work life and his sex life[/li][/ul]
Lots of great bits.[ul]
[li]“Take Off With Us” is probably the sexiest musical number in the history of film.[/li][li]“It’s showtime!”[/li][li]One of the greatest flip off toward critics. The film shows Gideon working for days to get the cutting of one scene in his movie right. The critic (a parody of Rona Barrret – anyone remember her?) panning the film – except for the scene Gideon worked so hard on, saying it was good because he just let the actor act without directorial interference (also a clear flip off to the critics of Fosse’s Lenny).[/li][/ul]
I love the film and will watch it again and again
Bit of Trivia - the big finale with Ben Vereen was filmed on the SUNY Purchase campus on the (then) newly completed Stage Four which was state of the art in the early 70s
Huh, I like that part – it seems like the truest culmination of his life/the movie (and what exactly is the difference?) – he’s so creative that he can’t even go ahead and die, because he’s got one more idea, one more idea, one more idea …
The part I don’t care for is the brief scenes in the strip club at the beginning – I’m too empathetic to enjoy watching people be humiliated, plus the scenes seem kind of stuck in there. If they (he and Angelique) are going to be reviewing his life, why is that the only part that is really acted out, instead of him just kind of talking about it?
What I was thinking about as I watched it this time – and this, with Top Hat, is one of my two favorite musicals evah – is how odd it is to have a musical in which the above-the-title star doesn’t really sing or dance. We just discussed in the Cabaret thread how Michael York doesn’t, but he’s one of three main characters, and Liza and Joel more than take up that slack, and the performances (other than “Tomorrow Belongs to Me”) all take place in the Cabaret.
Roy Scheider manages to do a reasonably creditable job with “Bye Bye Love” (“I think I’m gonna … die!”), and manages to slide around the stage a bit, but we can’t call him a singer or a dancer. Of course, all of the performances in this are done by performers – i.e., by characters who are performers. Thus, even when they’re not taking place in a rehearsal room or on a stage (e.g., in Joe’s living room, in Joe’s hallucination), they’re still being presented as performances. And Joe, though he may have started as a performer, has moved the locus of his artistry from his body to the bodies of others.
ETA: Re: Ann Reinking – she’s competent as an actress, but I gotta agree with lissener, that’s not the real reason she deserves a spot in the “great B’way performers of the 20th century” list.