Sunday, December 03, 2017

Cabaret (1972)

Given his background in theater, it is remarkable just how cinematic Bob Fosse's directorial efforts in film were. Indeed, he began directing films at a time when the musical genre had largely become passe, ossified by over-produced, stiff and lifeless works that were a far cry from the glory days of the genre a couple decades prior.

Enter Fosse and Cabaret (1972), which re-defined the genre and breathed real vitality and verve into the musical film. What is remarkable about Fosse's direction is how he uses the camera and editing as another part of his choreography -- not through cute or clever gimmicks but rather by integrating them so completely that they are all really of a piece. His style is at once electric and explosive, and yet, somehow, never calls attention to itself in a way that makes anything seem out of place. The performance of Liza Minnelli is central to the film's style, her physicality so perfectly in-tune with Fosse's visual approach that their collaboration achieves a kind of synergy.

Cabaret follows the relationship between Sally Bowles (Liza Minnelli), an American cabaret singer in Weimar-era Berlin, and British student Brian Roberts (Michael York), who is in Berlin as part of his doctoral research. The cabaret itself, the Kit Kat Klub, serves as a kind of communal spot in a city that is beginning to become overrun with Nazis, whose rise to power parallels the events in the lives of Sally and Brian over the course of the film.

Although based on the hit Broadway show of the same name, for his film Fosse returned to the original source material (The Berlin Stories by Christopher Isherwood) for inspiration, and songwriters John Kander and Fred Ebb jettisoned all but one of the tunes from their Broadway score, and wrote new songs for the film. The result is a remarkably rich, poignant, and stylish film that has lost none of its power.

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