Movie Musical Challenge, I'm watching all 25 picks for AFI's Greatest musicals starting from the bottom. Number 14 is the 1979 Bob Fosse film All That Jazz starring Roy Schneider. A film I was COMPLETELY unfamiliar with! I hadn't even heard of it.
This film was co-written, directed, and of course, choreographed by Bob Fosse It's a semi-autobiographical film about Fosse's life, which ultimately made me very depressed. For the tragedy of a brilliant man like Bob Fosse, wasting so much of his potential, and for the fact that the movie ends on a such manic and melancholy note. Unfortunately it was hard for me to enjoy this film for many reasons.
The dancing is stellar though. I'm fascinated by Fosse's trademark moves and gestures - it's so sleek and unnatural, and shows the body off wonderfully. I loved seeing all the dance numbers (well I could have done with a lot less nudity in some of them though). The dancing is the highlight of this film for me, and I think my favorite scene was when Joe's girlfriend gets together with Joe's daughter to perform a dance for him. It was very sweet, and again - love the dancing!
There are many aspects to this musical that I did not love though. The way people, and life and experiences are made to seem unimportant (even though surely the main character repented that later) really is a bummer. There's such a sense of futility in this film that I personally just can't get behind it. The story is told in an interesting - if sometimes confusing - way. There are occasional flashes of the future, and commentary on Joe's decisions that made it hard for me to follow - especially in the beginning. It was interesting though because it made the viewer have to work to piece together the story that was being presented, and I was able to understand the characters a bit more as it went on.
I was also not really impressed with the aesthetic of the film - which I guess might be indicative of the time. It's very gritty and realistic - and with the story, it's also seedy and sordid. Which is fine since it serves the story, but those things are always a turn off for me. The musical aspect was a little... light for me too, since not many people are actually singing - it's just that there are songs playing for the dance sequences. Which makes me feel like this is more a dance film than a musical. Oh well.
I would absolutely not rank this film as high as #14 on any list for movie musicals, but I can understand why this would be thought of as culturally important. Bob Fosse's involvement for one thing, makes this an important film, and as a glimpse of theater life of the time, it's intriguing. And Roy Schneider does a wonderful job of bringing such a broken, flawed genius to life. I am looking forward to reading what my fellow MMC participants think of this film!
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