Seen that!

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All That Jazz

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I don't remember which was the first DVD I bought. I do remember that this was the first VHS video I ever rented, c1982, so it seems a good place to start this blog.

The film was released in 1979 and won the Palme d'Or at Cannes (a joint win with Kagemusha) plus four Academy Awards, being nominated for five more, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Cinemaphotograhy and Best Original Screenplay. Despite that, it took about a year to reach a cinema anywhere near me – I still remember seeing it at one of the smaller screens in the Odeon in Coventry. It was worth the wait though, further proof from Fosse that musicals can be spectacular without having to be brain dead.

It's described as semi-autobiographical – you judge how 'semi'…

In real life, following the smash hit success of Cabaret, Bob Fosse was editing his next film, Lenny about the stand-up comedian Lenny Bruce, and directing and choreographing a new Kander & Ebb musical, Chicago, staring his separated wife, Gwen Verdon, when he had problems with his heart and had open-heart surgery.

In the film, following the smash hit success of one film (named as 70 Girls, 70, the title of another Kander & Ebb musical in real life), Joe Gideon is editing his next film, The Stand Up, about a comedian, and directing and choreographing a new musical by a camp composer / lyricist pairing, staring his separated wife, when he has problems with his heart and has open-heart surgery.

Hmm 🙂 It also features several of Fosse's real-life partners, including Anne Reinking as his live-in girlfriend.

As well as being brutally honest about his / Gideon's drug use, infidelities and obsessions on screen, you get an idea of just what sort of person Fosse was by the way Anne Reinking had to audition for the part of herself in the film. But one of those obsessions is his work and this shows in the superlative staging. All the dance numbers, from the opening audition scene, to the 'here's one way to do this song, but here's a better – more sexual! – way' rehearsal staging of one of the show's numbers, to the girlfriend and daughter's private 'welcome home', to the closing routine, are fabulous. There's also a statement about the importance of editing: The Stand Up's producer wails about how long it's taking to edit one of the comedy sequences, but has to admit that the final version is better.

I also like the sense of humour: another theatrical director has a waitress recognise him and ask for his autograph. He's delighted, only to be told that he's her second favourite director, after Gideon, and she's really sorry his shows flopped.

For a film obsessed with death – the The Stand Up scene being edited is about death and its re-ordering of the Kübler-Ross model ("This chick, man, without the benefit of dying herself, has broken down the process of dying into five stages: anger, denial, bargaining, depression and acceptance") is followed by Gideon – the ending shouldn't come as a huge surprise.

TL;DR: It defines 'self-indulgent', but it's wonderful.

Film: 4.5/5
DVD: 3/5

Good picture, just 2.0 stereo sound. The version I have includes a commentary by star Roy Scheider on some scenes, plus some clips of Fosse and some 'it's wonderful' interviews with Scheider. The US / Region 1 2007 version has a commentary by the editor (who won one of its Academy Awards).

Written by Ian

April 26th, 2011 at 3:54 pm

Posted in Cinema,DVDs

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