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28 July 2011

Cabaret (1972) [Musical Film-a-Thon] 11#

Directed by: Bob Fosse
Genre: Musical, Drama
Runtime: 124 minutes
Life is a cabaret! What do I think of it? I love it! Cabaret is a very extraordinary kind of musical from legendary musical director Bob Fosse. For me it is more than just musical. It is not just singing and dancing shown here, but true emotion and an honest story. Based in Germany, Berlin 1931 it is also shows an aspect of history. During the time of the rise of the Nazi Party was a rise in homosexuality, bisexuality, sadomasochism and many other activities. Times were very much changing in Germany. So is it hard to imagine a musical around this kind of theme? Well it is undeniably good and it is not what you think it is. Starring Liza Minnelli, who is a beautiful and talented woman here, Michael York and Joel Grey is a musical of a different breed very much so. With evocative musical numbers and great acting, give Cabaret it's deserving status as a stylish and socially conscious classic.

It’s 1931 Germany Berlin and we meet American girl Sally Bowles (Liza Minnelli) who is a performer at the Kit Kat Klub, a George Grosz-like Berlin cabaret where each night the smirking, androgynous Master of Ceremonies (Joel Grey) introduces a jazz-driven "girlie show" to his debauched audience. Here at Berlin she meets the British Brian Roberts (Michael York) who eventually stays with Sally in a must-see movie relationship. Virtually all the film's musical numbers are staged within the confines of the Kit Kat Klub, and each song comments on the plot and on Germany's "progression" from hedonism to Hitlerism.

Fosse is a film-making artist that is for sure and his stylistic craft has gone into this film. The camera angles, the set designs and of course, the costumes, all those aspects have made the atmosphere for 1931 Germany and the Kit Kat Club feel authentically wonderful. This is but one of his great musicals. In 1979, he brought All That Jazz, which is also a musical that feels different and let us not forget his creation of the stage musical Chicago. In 2002, the film came out and strangely, Fosse’s craft seems to be there. Not by sets or designs, but by mere storytelling which must have been inherited from the stage musical. What I mean is Fosse does not create typical musicals. All That Jazz does not have characters break into song in the reality, but in the mind of Joe Gideon. Chicago has interval type songs at times, but is the only one that really has characters break into song. Cabaret has songs that are diegetic and only two of our main characters sing. Therefore, they are almost like the film’s narration.

Liza Minnelli was stunningly brilliant. The eye make-up really brings out the emotion of her character and her performances in the Kit Kat Klub are grand. I can see how she won Best Actress in a leading role because she was remarkable. Michael York also did a great job in portraying this English man who seems so ordinary compared to the odd surroundings of The Kit Kat Klub, Sally herself and most of all the rise of the Nazis. The person whose performance I loved most was Joel Grey as the Master of Ceremonies (or emcee). Under that make-up and costume Grey easily becomes the Emcee with the remarkable authentic accent and marvellous acting performance, let alone his strangely lovable singing voice.

The music is the true pinnacle of this movie for me. Beside the marvellous, stand out story that makes it more than a musical the performances shown at the Kit Kat Klub where marvellous. They were comical, energetic and very powerful. From the introduction of ‘Wilkommen’ from the Master of Ceremonies to the big finish of Sally Bowles ‘Cabaret’, the music is truly something to behold. In one scene we have a Nazi singing in the song called ‘Tomorrow Belongs to me’ which is the only song outside the Kit Kat Klub and it really shows that forceful rising of the Nazis as we see fellow people stood up and singing along as they hail to their ‘furor’. It was a cynical moment that definitely gets you thinking. The Master of Ceremonies also mocks the Nazis through the songs he sings.

The film won eight academy awards, which is amazing, and this is why. Bob Fosse won Best Director and that was against Francis Ford Coppola with The Godfather. Liza Minnelli won best actress in a leading role and Michael York won Best Actor in a supporting role. York’s performance was against Al Pacino’s in The Godfather and it amazes me that it topped hi particular film. Although I have not yet watched it (despite owning the 5-disc edition) I know of it’s popularity and amazing efforts.
Liza Mannelli as Sally Bowles.
The films loosely based on the stage musical of the same name, which was adapted from the book The Berlin Stories and the play I am a Camera. Most of the songs in the film are original. Cabaret has held it's cultural status even after these 39 years, and it will be great next year when it celebrates 40 years. Cabaret is simply a terrific musical and most of all, a terrific stand-alone movie. 

My Rating: 9.5/10


1 comment:

  1. I consider this to be the best movie that happens to be a musical. When the boy starts singing Tomorrow Belongs to Me it's first cute, then chilling as the camera pans back to show everything.

    ReplyDelete

 

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