Sunday, June 27, 2010

All That Jazz

It's Showtime!

I love an autobiographical film where the star passes away. Just what does Bob Fosse want us to know about himself? Director/writer/choreographer Bob Fosse tells his "life story" in this film. Roy Scheider stars as Joe Gideon. Gideon is a Broadway director/choreographer, film director/editor and world class jerk. He drinks, does drugs, cheats on his wife, works too much and generally is a bother to all around him. But Gideon, like Bob Fosse, is an unbelievable talent. So everyone puts up with his faults to be around his star quality and talent. Eventually, as in all good fables, his life comes crashing down and the "piper must be paid". Jessica Lange portrays Angelique. Her character has been called both the 'Angel of Death' and the 'Angel of Life'. I guess it depends upon your perspective.

This movie is a masterpiece and should be required viewing for every film student on Earth. Fosse directs and choreographs musical numbers like no one else. He forgoes the quick cut and the close-up. Instead he allows us to view the entire number, usually from a small distance and always cutting with the music not just to make another cut. Would someone please tell MTV and every other director/editor that we can enjoy a scene without 3 cuts per second. Our attention span isn't that small! The dance numbers are vintage Fosse. The 'air-otica' sequence was "borrowed" by Paula Abdul (she would call it a tribute) and other scenes have been copied by Beyonce and others. But it is the opening sequence, with its hundreds of dancers in an open casting call, that shows the ability of Fosse. He tells the entire story of 'A Chorus Line' in 8 minutes. Beautifully set to George Benson's 'On Broadway' we can feel the tension, disappointment and exhilaration of the dancers as they attempt to get a job with a legend.

Along with the music/dance numbers is a terrific script, co-written by Fosse and Robert Alan Arthur. The story of Gideon's lack of respect, for both others and himself, is a descent into death. Gideon's constant flirting with the Angel of Death shows his desire to end his failures. Roy Scheider as Gideon is terrific. Originally Fosse had cast Richard Dreyfus, but Dreyfus couldn't handle the job. Scheider was then thrust into the film well into rehearsals. His portrayal of the addict/womanizer is compelling. Lange is also terrific as Angelique. Her constant "flirty" attitude as she attempts to lure Gideon to his death is spot-on. Sandahl Bergman, as the lead dancer in the air-otica scene, and Ann Reinking, as Gideon's love interest, are both eye catchers.

I am not a big fan of musicals. The bursting into song strikes me as odd. But in All That Jazz I find myself glued to the screen. Combine a story about a Broadway musical director and the unmatched choreography of Bob Fosse and I watch again and again. As I said in an earlier post, how this film lost the Best Picture Oscar to 'Kramer vs. Kramer' is unbelievable. That should be a plot on the X-Files it is so alien and absurd.

This movie is fantastic and should be seen by everyone! The dancing, acting, script, direction, soundtrack and impact are all amazing.

A note about Bob Fosse: Fosse holds the "trifecta" of directing awards. He is the only person to win a Best Director Oscar, for 'Cabaret', Tony, for 'Pippin', and Emmy, for 'Liza with a Z'. No other human being has won all three awards in their life and Fosse did it in the same year! He may have been a workaholic, but at least it was good work.

Filmed in 1979, directed by Bob Fosse, written by Fosse and Robert Alan Arthur, starring Roy Scheider, Jessica Lange, Ann Reinking, Leland Palmer, Sandhal Bergman and Ben Vereen.

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