Now Playing: All That Jazz
Topic: Movie Reviews
All That Jazz is a semi-autobiographical film about director, choreographer, and dancer Bob Fosse. Fosse was a Chicago native who used tour with vaudeville groups until he made it to Broadway. As a choreographer, he was well known for his sexualized movements and penchant for fishnets and bowler hats. The movie stars Roy Schneider as Joe Gideon cum Bob Fosse-- a chain-smoking tyrant of a choreographer with an ego as huge a his sexual appetite for women. Roy Schneider does a great job of assuming the sinewy characteristics of a life-long dancer.
Bob Fosse co-wrote and directed All That Jazz. ATJ gives us a peek inside the genius of Fosse. It is a fantastical story told as part musical, docudrama, and camp. (When Joe Gideon's alter-ego leans in beside the real Gideon, in bed after heart surgery, and whispers "cue hospital hallucination, you know, finally, that this is no ordinary flick.) Fosse skewers not only the financiers of Broadway musicals and the women he bedded, he also sticks it to himself the hardest. Gideon is such a jerk that when he is faced with a heart attack from years of drinking, screwing and pill-popping, you can?t decide if you want him to live or die.
All that Jazz is a movie that requires concentration with the quick cuts from Joe?s present to his past and into his imagination. There are also several viewings of Joe's daily routine (The routine consists of Joe popping a pill, using eye drops, taking a shower, shaking the pain out of his wrist, and then facing himself in the mirror to utter ?Show time.?). At first, the repetitions come off as annoying but eventually you realize it is a comparison of learning a dance. You repeat and repeat and repeat until you get it right. (And once it hits the stage, you repeat and repeat and repeat for 8 shows a week.) The theme of repetition and perfection come up in the film often.
Joe is working on a film project that is overdue to the movie company ( in real life it is a version of Bob Fosse's biographical film Lenny based on the life of comedian Lenny Bruce). He relentlessly watches the draft over and over again finding every flaw but never finding what good is in it. From every dance that is rehearsed ad nauseum to the parade of women that come in and out of Joe's life, his mere existence is about repetition until perfection but he never finds it. This movie, however, is as close to perfect as a bio-pic can get (witty, sexy, good music, great dancing, excellent acting).
All that Jazz also takes me back to the late 70s and early 80s when Broadway musicals seemed to having a revival in NYC. I fondly remember seeing commercials on television for Evita, Dreamgirls, A Chorus Line, Annie, La Cage Aux Folles and other favorites. I also remember hearing songs from those musicals played on the radio--re-edited and discofied for everyone. All that Jazz and Cabaret melded into one for me as kid. Life, theater, and the movies were just one big song and dance routine.
(I did especially the dance routine that Joe's daughter and girlfriend did to a life recording of Peter Allen's "Everything Old Is New Again."
Who is Bob Fosse Any Way? Bob Fosse (June 23, 1927 - September 23, 1987) was a musical theater choreographer and director.
Fosse developed a jazz dance style that was immediately recognizable, exuding a stylized, cynical sexuality. Bowler hats, fishnet stockings, canes and chairs were distinctive trademarks. His dance routines are intense and demanding, requiring considerable stamina. Technically the style involves moving one part of the body whilst holding the rest in a still pose - a combination of precisely-executed gestures ("hand ballet", to use his own term), both sinuous flows and rapid kicks and jerks. The filmed routines in Cabaret (1972) are particularly characteristic: the vulgar energy of vaudeville and burlesque updated and cooly contained within a slick, knowing sophistication.
About Musical theater From My Childhood
More recent eras
1976 brought one of the great contemporary musicals to the stage. A Chorus Line emerged from recorded group therapy-style sessions Michael Bennett conducted with gypsies - those who sing and dance in support of the leading players - from the Broadway community. From hundreds of hours of tapes, James Kirkwood and Nick Dante fashioned a book about an audition for a musical, incorporating into it many of the real-life stories of those who had sat in on the sessions - and some of whom eventually played variations of themselves or each other in the show. With music by Marvin Hamlisch and lyrics by Edward Kleban, A Chorus Line first opened at Joseph Papp's Public Theater in lower Manhattan. Advance word-of-mouth - that something extraordinary was about to explode - boosted box office sales, and after critics ran out of superlatives to describe what they witnessed on opening night, what initially had been planned as a limited engagement eventually moved to the Shubert Theater uptown for a run that seemed to last forever. The show swept the Tony Awards and won the Pulitzer Prize, and its hit song, What I Did for Love, became an instant standard.
Clearly, Broadway audiences were eager to welcome musicals that strayed from the usual style and substance. John Kander and Fred Ebb explored pre-World War II Nazi Germany in Cabaret and Prohibition-era Chicago, which relied on old vaudeville techniques to tell its tale of murder and the media. Pippin, by Stephen Schwartz, was set in the days of Charlemagne. Federico Fellini's autobiographical film 8? became Maury Yeston's Nine. But old-fashioned values were embraced, as well, in such hits as Annie, 42nd Street, My One and Only, and popular revivals of No, No, Nanette and Irene.
Coming next week, a review of the movie adaptation of Rent.
Posted by Kiki Shoes at 12:14 AM EST | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: November 27, 2005 9:09 PM EST
Updated: November 27, 2005 9:09 PM EST