Friday, June 22, 2007

Review of All That Jazz (1979)

I once had a website where I posted some movie reviews and the most controversial one was "All that Jazz." It was the first Bob Fosse film I'd seen and while people familiar with the director found him brilliant, I thought it was basically a piece of crap. I didn't understand who Bob Fosse was, but I don't think it should've mattered. For someone unfamiliar with the Fosse it was uninteresting and the job of a biopic isn't to cater to fans who like the film, it's to make you want to be interested in the person:

All That Jazz is a biopic that reminds me of the recent Oscar winner Chicago in that the main character is so passionate about show business that the line between reality and the stage become blurred. Chicago, I really did enjoy watching because it took this idea and went with it full-force fusing melodramatic scenes with musical song-and-dance numbers, whereas All That Jazz didn't really go full-force in any direction and ended up in an awkward middle ground. Centering on Broadway dancer Joseph Gideon, played by Roy Scheider, the film relies on a couple recurring motifs and chronological disorder in its storytelling to convey its effects. One of the motifs is that Scheider starts out every day taking some kind of prescribed drug, drinking a cup of water with alka-seltzer, putting eye drops in his eyes and smiling in front of a mirror exclaiming to himself, `It's Showtime', which just has the overall effect of making him appear distanced from reality.The other big motif is that there's a certain blur of events time wise, especially when there are frequent interruptions in the story in which Gideon is talking to a pretty attractive woman, Jessica Lange, who happens to be the Angel of Death, so that makes the film a sort of surreal flashback. The whole thing left me more confused than anything else, and also by the time I figured out who she was, the story's protagonist was in the hospital and it was unclear whether he would survive, so I felt like the answer to that question was ruined.I really liked the opening musical number as a crowd starts out on a Broadway stage trying out for a show while the song `On Broadway' is playing and one-by-one Gideon sends them home until he whittles it down to the cast we'll become more familiar with over the course of the film. It really has an interesting vibe to it as are some of the behind-the-scenes aspects of Broadway we see in this film, but they didn't show too much of that.When I really think hard about why this film didn't cut it for me, it points to the fact that despite Scheider's efforts, Joseph Gideon, and I don't even know if he's an actual real-life person, just isn't anyone interesting enough to make a biopic about. The gist of the man's life was that he was very talented and genuinely cared about those who loved him, but he also couldn't stay loyal to any one woman and slept around, even while he was married. Well, I'm sorry, being a talented womanizer is nothing new judging from all the scandals and divorces going on in Hollywood. In fact, you'd probably find it harder to find a talented performer who IS loyal to his wife.