Language: English, German
Genre: Musical, Drama
Director: Bob Fosse
John Van Bruten
A timeless classic! The musical numbers alone are superlative, even the 30-years-younger CHICAGO (2002) pales in comparison. My very first Bob Fosse’s film, certainly the film gained its classic fame as the biggest winner of the Oscar in 1973, with 8 wins (including BEST DIRECTOR, LEADING ACTRESS and SUPPORTING ACTOR) and nearly usurped the BEST PICTURE trophy from THE GODFATHER (1972), if it had been so, it would be inflicted with much notorious backfire in the film history, but the film itself is an unerring gem among the undying musical genre, my first viewing is a thoroughly exultant experience, and cut and dried, it’s on my guilty-pleasure list.
It is my first Liza Minnelli’s film as well, the cabaret’s “international sensation” Sally Bowles, an innocuous vamp, Liza grants her role a disarming vitality and quaintly resembles a bobbed Anne Hathaway doppelgänger, not only radiates her grandeur in rendering her doughty-yet-alluring show tunes (she is born to do it), her portrayal of Sally personal life is equally (if not more) affecting, her doe-eyed naivety and unrestrained zest for life, for love, for fame elevate her character as the master of her own fate, her sacrifice may not gain concurrence from motley views of life, but a full obeisance to her independence and pluck is duly earned.
Michael York, behind his gawky effeminacy, plunges himself into a more contentious venture, Brian Roberts, his character’s bookish bi-sexual temperament is a provocative taboo on big screen (like since ever) and the implicit ménage à trois temptation (with Sally and the suave Helmut Griem, whose gentrified debonair is utterly irresistible) has been simmering to the perfect temperature, undergirds a manifestation of initiating a sex-liberation wave (germane to the 70s era while against the Nazi-rising milieu in the film).
There is a subplot dealing with a bromide of a down-and-out German guy’s infatuation with a rich but prude Jewish girl, there is an ironic twist near the end, however never quite manages to steal the limelight from Sally and Bri, but Marisa Berenson’s placid performance is still worthy of backslapping (the dichotomy of women’s images is a trifle stale though).
Joel Grey, as the so called “Master of Ceremonies” and won an Oscar (against three fellows from THE GODFATHER), serves only as the performer in the film, no clear attachment with the plot, his musical set pieces are burlesque, risqué but entertaining to the bone, with a strenuous mimicry of German accent, it is a hard-earned honour, although I don’t understand how Al Pacino could lose at any rate.
The film drops its curtain right before the prevalence of Nazi’s atrocity, the ending with the vague reflections of Third Reich audience occupying the place has sublimated the materialistic razzle-dazzle onto an eerily ominous scope which the film has no interest to tamper but the audiences will intuit what will happen next. A great windup, neat and potent!