Film: All That Jazz

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Film:

All That Jazz

Director: Bob Fosse
Honors:
Genres:
Distributor: 20th Century Fox

Choreographer-turned-director Bob Fosse (Cabaret, Lenny) turns the camera on himself in this nervy, sometimes unnerving 1979 feature, a nakedly autobiographical piece that veers from gritty drama to razzle-dazzle musical, allegory to satire. It’s an indication of his bravura, and possibly his self-absorption, that Fosse (who also cowrote the script) literally opens alter ego Joe Gideon’s heart in a key scene—an unflinching glimpse of cardiac surgery, shot during an actual open-heart procedure.

Roy Scheider makes a brave and largely successful…

Reviews

Amazon.com

Choreographer-turned-director Bob Fosse (Cabaret, Lenny) turns the camera on himself in this nervy, sometimes unnerving 1979 feature, a nakedly autobiographical piece that veers from gritty drama to razzle-dazzle musical, allegory to satire. It’s an indication of his bravura, and possibly his self-absorption, that Fosse (who also cowrote the script) literally opens alter ego Joe Gideon’s heart in a key scene—an unflinching glimpse of cardiac surgery, shot during an actual open-heart procedure.

Roy Scheider makes a brave and largely successful leap out of his usual romantic lead roles to step into Gideon’s dancing pumps, and supplies a plausible sketch of an extravagant, self-destructive, self-loathing creative dynamo, while Jessica Lange serves as a largely allegorical Muse, one of the various women that the philandering Gideon pursues (and usually abandons). Gideon’s other romantic partners include Fosse’s own protégé (and a major keeper of his choreographic style since his death), Ann Reinking, whose leggy grace is seductive both “onstage” and off.

Fosse/Gideon’s collision course with mortality, as well as his priapic obsession with the opposite sex, may offer clues into the libidinal core of the choreographer’s dynamic, sexualized style of dance, but musical aficionados will be forgiven for fast-forwarding to cut out the self-analysis and focus on the music, period. At its best—as in the knockout opening, scored to George Benson’s strutting version of “On Broadway,” which fuses music, dance, and dazzling camera work into a paean to Fosse’s hoofer nation—All That Jazz offers a sequence of classic Fosse numbers, hard-edged, caustic, and joyously physical. —Sam Sutherland

Barnes and Noble

All That Jazz is Bob Fosse’s answer to Federico Fellini’s 8 ½ —an autobiographical portrait of the artist as a womanizing, pill-popping, chain-smoking Broadway director whose self-destructive habits land him in the hospital with a heart attack. The film is as messy and self-indulgent as its hero, yet compelling even today in its inventiveness, daring, and sheer chutzpah. Roy Scheider portrays Fosse stand-in Joe Gideon, a workaholic who struggles to finish a film and stage a new Broadway show while juggling an ex-wife (Leland Palmer), a girlfriend (Fosse’s real-life paramour, Ann Reinking), a daughter (Erzebet Foldi), and innumerable one-night stands. The only real happiness he derives is from his work, which he pursues with maniacal devotion. He cheats on, lies to, and genuinely disappoints all the women in his life, yet they remain by his side—not only because he is a true creative genius but also because, as played by Scheider, Gideon has enough self-awareness, and self-loathing, to make him sympathetic. This notion of the tortured artist is hardly a new one; what makes All That Jazz original and fascinating is the way Fosse, the ultimate showman, deconstructs the musical, digging for the dirt beneath the showbiz glitter and brandishing his trademark razzle-dazzle in the service of something darker. He takes us inside Gideon’s tormented psyche as he is wooed by an ethereal and seductive Angel of Death (Jessica Lange, another Fosse girlfriend) and then onto the operating table, intercutting gruesomely realistic shots of Gideon’s open-heart surgery with glitzy song-and-dance routines addressing the failures of his life and his inevitable slide toward death. It’s hard to imagine a film with such a genuinely experimental approach and downbeat ending receiving recognition from the Academy today, but All That Jazz won seven Oscars. Like Martin Scorsese’s criminally underrated New York, New York, this flawed but ambitious work attempts to reimagine the feel-good musical for a more cynical and knowing era. Kryssa Schemmerling

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