Dir. Bob Fosse
Run Time: 123 mins. M15+
(U.S Release Poster)
Bob Fosse’s semi-autobiographical surreal musical comedy might be one of the most artistically intelligent musical movies I’ve seen in a while. Its meta-tale of the slow deconstruction of a man and his ego takes the quick cut aesthetic of Fosse’s earlier expressionist masterpiece Cabaret (1972), but adds to the mix the almost terrifying reality that this is not a dream, this is Fosse’s real life.
The plot revolves around Fosse’s fictional surrogate Joe Gideon’s (deftly portrayed by Roy Scheider) efforts to balance his excessive lifestyle with the demands of simultaneously making a motion picture and directing a Broadway production. The real story, however, revolves around the masterful editing and surreal song-and-dance routines which build layer upon layer into the tragic melting pot.
An ongoing interview with an angel of death, a repetition of the Gideon’s daily routine of booze, pills, sex, and “showtime”, and a multitude of stories, plays, and films within the film make it a real delight to watch. Perhaps it’s not the simplest thing to get your head around when you’re just looking for a feel-good musical, but that is not why All That Jazz is here: this is art.
It must be said, however, that, for the final effort from one of the most accomplished musical directors and choreographers to ever grace the screen, the dance routines and musical numbers don’t hold much water compared to a lot of other films. Yes, the ending Bye-Bye Life is a truly remarkable piece of cinema, but on the whole most of the actual ‘musical’ elements of this film don’t really stick in your mind. Every dancer is more than competent and the whole thing is shot and edited with a touch of genius, but the routines themselves are just a little bit lackluster.
The real accomplishment of this film, however, is not in its ability to be as good a musical as, say, Grease (1978), but rather it is to be found in the way Fosse expertly weaves the art-house cinema techniques of Fellini with the high camp of a Busby Berkeley number. It is a visual and intellectual feast that holds the audience from start to finish and does not leave them dissatisfied.
It just plays out its almost Wagnerian opera sensibilities on such a grand scale that it hard not to be impressed by this film. The masks keep falling, the intrigue keeps on deepening, but it is all treated with a profound sense of subtlety that is rarely captured by films so lavish as this one. It is, in my opinion, one of those rare movies that you simply must see, even if you don’t actually like musicals. Find yourself a copy, dim the lights, pour yourself a nice glass of champagne, and brace yourself for a long and winding ride through the heart, soul, and mind of one of the most interesting showbiz personalities of our time.
SIDENOTE: All That Jazz is listed as number 649 on the list of 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die.
(Polish Release Poster)
- Film: Watch This: All That Jazz was Bob Fosse’s portrait of the artist as total bastard (avclub.com)
- All That Jazz (1979) (laserblastfilmsociety.wordpress.com)
- Bob Fosse (slideshare.net)
- 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die (ljfacestheworld.wordpress.com)
- Film Sound Review (danieuk.wordpress.com)
- Film Review: Dumbo (1941) (ljfacestheworld.wordpress.com)