Tuesday, March 21, 2006

He's Been Doing More Then Choreography

A Movie Review

The recent recommendation of All That Jazz by a friend of mine as one of the top 5 musicals of all time, pushed me over the edge to view this film that I have long intended to see. One of the first American films done in the Dennis Potter style, Jazz is director Bob Fosses semi-autobiographical account of the last few months in the life of a self-destructive, sex addicted, drug abusing, death obsessed but brilliant choreographer and director. Roy Scheider plays that director, Joe Gideon, in what is probably the best performance of his career.

Gideon is in the middle of pre-production for a musical set to star his ex-wife Audry Paris (played byLeland Plamer which by-the-way was the name of Ray Wise's character on Twin Peaks), while simultaneously editing a feature film he directed about a stand-up comedian. Despite the busy work-aholic schedule he loves, Joe still manages to find time to sleep with a dancer from his show. His girlfriend Anqelique (Jessica Lang) is none to pleased but sticks with him despite the pattern of unfaithfulness that ruined his first marriage. Joe by the way has a daughter from that first marriage named Michelle (Erzsebet Foldi) whom he adores but neglects because of his work.

Joe Gideon is basically a deceitful person, an unfaithful lair who will say nearly anything to get what he wants, yet he is non-the-less quite charming, very good at what he does, and you understand why people want to be around him. Though actually happy with his current life style and estranged from any real emotion, Gideon is forced to confront his own mortality when a series of minor symptoms turn out to be signs of angina, and his very life might be in danger. This all leads to lavish Broadway style musical hallucinations, acting out, various internal conflicts, and ultimately an odd kind of redemption. Seldom does a musical make you think, let alone reflect upon matters of mortality, but All That Jazz succeeds in doing so. If you start the film be warned that the first half may take awhile to 1) get your interest, and 2) make sense, yet it all does come together nicely in the end (interesting choice of a last shot by the way). Feel free to fast-forward through an awkward musical number in the middle of the film, you'll know it when you see it and its not 100% essential for the plot. While I may not think Jazz is one of the five best musicals of all time it sure is one of the most unusual, and quite reveling about its director. Bob Fosse himself died of heart attack in 1987.

P.S. Did anyone notice my White Christmas reference in this reviews title?


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