All That Jazz (1979) (R)

Bob Fosse is a director whose relationship with theater seems strained at best. Growing up in the light of vaudeville, some of Fosse's more famous works come from his satire of the theater. His most famous example, and the best known for almost dethroning "The Godfather", "Cabaret" is pretty ruthless; but if anything, it pales in comparison with "All That Jazz".
Fosse grew older between the two pictures and it seems like his opinion of Hollywood got worse if anything. "All That Jazz" is a testament to not only the ingenuity of Fosse; but also to the fact that a blinding piece of one-sided propaganda can be so entertaining as to nearly make you go insane.
"What's the matter? Don't you like musical comedy?"
Joe Gideon (Roy Schneider) is a film and theater director and choreographer. He can do it all: sing, dance, and act—the lethal trifecta. Born, like Fosse (much of the movie seems somewhat biographical), in vaudeville, Gideon grows up to rule Broadway. His is the name on everyone's lips, the insider to outsiders and vice versa; but fame comes with a price and Joe takes the toll out on his body. He is riddled with afflictions that range from his lungs to his heart and all the important organs in between. Never one for commitment, we often see and hear about Joe cheating on his ex-wife and girlfriends of the time. The one woman that he does have a steady relationship with is his daughter, Michelle (Erzsebet Folsi). The two of them share a very intimate father-daughter moment while rehearsing for Joe's newest theater venture—it's shot in a dance studio while Joe tries to choreograph a dance for a number that he doesn't want in the show. The scene itself proves why Fosse's movie is almost beyond critique. It's a cliche scene in concept but when given to Fosse, he turns it into something that most of us have never seen before and will never see again.
This vein runs true for most of the movie's length: the ordinary, tried and true, becomes a colorful range of visual emotions and motifs played out for our entertainment.
At its core, the movie is much more about the struggle of an artist believing that he's lost his touch more than anything else; but, like the theater that both Joe and Fosse have a love-hate relationship with, the show must go an and it must be entertaining.
Amidst the hectic editing and the dance numbers and the sexual bravado of the piece (a specific number is one of the more seductive and intrinsically sexual scenes that come to mind) we have scenes between Joe and a woman in white known as Angelique (Jessica Lange, perfect as ever). Angelique will ask Joe questions about his life...hard hitting questions. Sometimes he tries to dodge them and sometimes he'll be genuine.
So for "All That Jazz" we have two main modes of narrative: the honest moments between Joe and his quasi-counselor and then the theater itself.
As far as hope for young people goes, this piece would probably shatter many dreams. It's not the glorified theater that we see in "Fame" or even the elitist altruism of a wacky piece like "Tootsie"—"All That Jazz" is brutal: it is incredibly rare for you to make it on Broadway and if you do, you'll more than likely be forgotten quickly or whiz by the prime of your life only to be replaced by someone younger and more talented.
But perhaps there is hope for the average person wanting to glean some truth from the mire of "All That Jazz"—Fosse seems to be saying that most of the pressure is self-inflicted and most of the heartaches and physical sickness is also a result of self-doubt.
Maybe I got too deep there.
"All That Jazz" blends its editing with its story, particularly its sound editing. One scene that is crucial to the movie will play over and over and over behind the words and actions of another scene. It's a kaleidoscope of imagination of colorful wizardry. If there was any doubt of Fosse's talent, this is the movie to prove otherwise.
The movie bleeds bleeds confetti and tears.
"All That Jazz" manages to encompass not only a critique of Hollywood, but also a character study, a musical, and a fall from grace. It gives the most interesting ending to a movie that I've recently seen. It's just the right amount of crazy, just the right amount of flashy, and has more than enough guts to give two pictures credibility.
The movie is all about the jazz and all about the madness underneath. It's glorious, inventive, and hysterical. I will be returning to this one again...after my breath returns.

Score: ★★★★


  1. Agreed - this one is a masterpiece! And so is your article on it, you were obviously inspired!

    1. Wow, so flattering! Thank you so much! This movie really blew me away, and as weird as it sounds I was recovering for a few days.