Tuesday, March 16, 2010

All That Jazz (Bob Fosse, 1979)

All That Jazz is the story of Joe Gideon. Choreographer, film director, alcoholic, womanizer, drug addict. Scratch that. It is the story of Bob Fosse, as written and directed by Bob Fosse. It is not a pretty picture.

Fosse seems to pull few punches in looking at his life. He is at the top of his game, but is never happy with his results. The film looks at much of his life, but deals primarily with the period where Fosse was completing Lenny (1974, starring Dustin Hoffman). Here, the film is called The Standup, and goes from being a sideline to the Broadway musical he is choreographing to a parable of his life. Despite Lenny garnering six Academy Award nominations, Fosse is unhappy with the results, and is sure the film could have been better. He is also highly critical of his relationships with women. The three main players are his former wife, his daughter, and his girlfriend, all of whom he treats poorly though without malice.

Roy Scheider (Jaws, Blue Thunder, The French Connection) plays Gideon/Fosse, and singing aside does a wonderful job with the role. He is very believable as the obsessive womanizer who is sick of relationships and show business. Having always known him from tough guy roles, it was nice to see him playing a rather unsympathetic hero.

I bought this for two reasons. First, I have been a little obsessed with Fosse. I always admired Cabaret and Lenny, and when I realized this was a biopic of sorts, it found its way to my see list. Second, Wal-Mart had it for six dollars... The film won four of the eight Academy Awards it was nominated for, and true to Fosse's vision of himself, he did not win for best director, nor did Scheider win best actor for the role.

If you've ever passed this up because you thought it was a musical, forget it. There is some dancing and music, particularly the finale, but for the most part it is a tragic drama with a surrealist bend that is very watchable. It is a little self-serving at times, but seems to be as honest a look at oneself as you are likely to see. Fosse does not come off as the man you love to hate, but the man you can't help but love, as well as pity.

10 comments:

Will Errickson said...

This is a great movie! Scheider is terrific in it. I love its old-timey, slightly sleazy Broadway charm. And you're right, it's not your average musical; it's a tough and unsentimental character study of a man falling apart. I also like his take on the Dorothy Stratten story, Star 80. Eric Roberts is magnificent in that.

Darius Whiteplume said...

Thanks, Will. I have not seen Star 80 yet. I have not seen Lenny in years either.

I could have done without the huge Buddy Holly song and dance at the end, but I am often disappointed by endings anyway.

I think I needed to see this, since musicals are so popular again, and you get the bubble gum side from Glee and High School Musical. Sure, there are problems there, but they are not so ugly as this one.

I think next on my list might be the not, but could have been Fosse film New York, New York. I hear it is not for everyone, and being Scorsese it is likely not the old-time musical fare either. :-)

MrJeffery said...

one of the best-edited films i've seen.

Darius Whiteplume said...

It does move very nicely. I didn't even think of the editing, which just might be the hallmark of great editing?

Tom said...

Worth six dollars! Good find!

Darius Whiteplume said...

It is worth checking out the Wally. They have a lot of Oscar winners all at $6. Picked up Midnight Cowboy last night.

davidfullam said...

Without a doubt, one of my all time favorite films.

Darius Whiteplume said...

I am definitely glad I grabbed this one. I need to post a "what movies must I see" entry. I am behind on a lot of known greats, much less all the lesser-known ones :-)

Machio said...

Fosse was ultimately honest in 'All That Jazz' that it's both amazing and sad in a way...
Scheider, Lithgow, Lange, Wright - they were all superb in their roles; music, dance, lyrics, everything is majestic, unforgettable.

I truly admire Bob Fosse...

Darius Whiteplume said...

@Machio - It is likely hard to point the camera at yourself, and Fosse didn't put any Vaseline on the lens ;-)

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