Cabaret (1972)













Of any films ever made, "The Godfather" is considered to be the best or one of the best. I recently read an article that placed "The Godfather" as the best Best Picture winner ever made. But what movie goers fail to realize is how close "The Godfather" came to not winning the coveted Best Picture Oscar. In fact, that night in 1973, the mafia movie only took home three statues and among those was not Best Director for Francis Ford Coppola. So what film almost dethroned the first installment of a franchise that has become one of the most loved and most acclaimed of all time?—well, darling, it was "Cabaret".
When you're watching "Cabaret" it's impossible not to think of "Chicago", because that's what this musical so closely resembles. But "Chicago" with a touch of Kubrick. The madness that resides in this movie is also the driving force that carries it to the end. Without the insanity and quirks, you'd be left with a dull drama piece about people and the secret lives they lead. Not so with "Cabaret". The false merriment is almost unsettling and the camera is unflinching, things I never thought I'd say about a musical; but they fit so well to this dark film.
The idea of the cabaret is simple, it's the facade that people wear on the outside. You never see behind the curtain and into the makeup room, it's all a cabaret.
Liza Minnelli plays Sally Bowles, a singer at the cabaret where this film is 'set'. She a spicy woman with a high ambition to become a movie star and she's willing to do whatever she needs to in order to get there. Sally is a free spirit, running along side the train so she can scream at the top of her lungs and not care. When Brian Roberts (Michael York) moves in next door she can't help but complicate his life. She seems to carry complications around on her back without realizing it.
"Cabaret" is bold. There's no other word to describe it. Coming out in the decade that it did it's surprising to find how forward the themes in this movie are: homosexuality, abortion, infidelity, racism. Not all of them are portrayed in good lights and some are left to the viewer to decide how to deal with them but none of them are just touched on—they are presented in the spotlight with glaring reality.
The Master of the Ceremony of the cabaret is played by Joel Grey who is simply delightful. He won Best Supporting Actor for his role, taking down the entire supporting cast of "The Godfather". His rouged face and painted lips are exactly the symbolism this film is about.
But "Cabaret" is dark, it doesn't shy away from subjects that aren't exactly typical musical fodder. I wasn't expecting the punch that "Cabaret" delivers so for now, I'm a little winded.
There is so much to take in, but not all of that is good. Sometimes the scenes are a little awkward for the sake of comedy that doesn't deliver. Occasionally there is a break in sound altogether and the silence is palpable. But the silence I'm okay with, it makes the viewer think. That's the end goal of the film, to make you think and it succeeds.
Bob Fosse triumphed over Coppola for this piece because of the thought he put into it. It's bizarre and sometimes even frightening (as mentioned before, Kubrick kept popping into my mind) because of the bold the visual styles that Fosse uses. Barreling into the Academy Awards, "Cabaret" walked away with eight awards and big impression on its viewer.
Maybe not the best musical and certainly not my favorite, but still wonderfully dark and deep.

Score: 3 and a half stars out of 4

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