All That Jazz

I hate musicals. At least, as a general rule, I hate musicals for the obvious reasons that one should- they’re silly, trite, melodramatic, offering all fluff and no substance. That mantra held true for a long while until I finally watched Bob Fosse’s classic, All That Jazz, which uses the musical form to discuss the life of a man who lived and breathed Broadway right up until the very end.

Watching All That Jazz, you realize quickly that only a musical could accurately tell this autobiographical tale about musical theater. No other stylistic approach would have come close to capturing the nuances, the highs, the lows, everything about the inherently dramatic life that comes with a career in that world. The fact that the film mirrors Fosse’s own life (an egomaniacal director working in both live theater and Hollywood who takes it all one step too far) is, obviously, very interesting- but ultimately not needed for one to appreciate the bombastic genius unleashed in the film.

Like Fellini’s 8 1/2, All That Jazz blends fact and fiction into a trippy, extended dream sequence, but adds the touch of amazing musical numbers throughout. Its quintessential “This is Your Life” climax converts a cute, innocent Everly Brothers pop hit into a poignant, deeply moving curtain call on Joe Gideon’s life, one of those once-in-a-lifetime roles gobbled up by Roy Scheider.

The cinematography is perfect; the editing is perfect. If the writing wasn’t so good, the story would be trite and schmaltzy, but the writing is good. In the hands of any Hollywood Hack director, this would have been a self-indulgent mess, but Fosse turns it into a self-indulgent masterpiece about self-indulgence so good, Stanley Kubrick himself declared it “the best film I think I have ever seen.”


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