STARDUST AND SHADOWS is currently enjoying the MAD ABOUT MUSICALS free online course presented by Ball State University and TCM. In keeping with that theme, my brain went back to the Bob Fosse Directed film ALL THE JAZZ which perhaps will get mentioned in this course.
ALL THAT JAZZ is a huge favorite of mine since it came out in the theatre. I have seen it many time and still marvel at the sheer audacity of it’s story, the musical numbers and the thought of choreographing one’s death on stage and screen
The picture stars non musical Roy Scheider as self destructive Theatre Director Joe Gideon during his final days. Scheider gets some high powered Broadway help in the persons of Fosse dancer/lover Ann Reinking and Leland Palmer and Ben Vereen plsu a host of others that populate this wickedly cynical music fantasy. Without going into plot: ALL THAT JAZZ features some wonderful hellish moments of venom and sadness all climaxed with a brilliant final musical number.
One wonders why Bob Fosse would cast an ex boxer/non musical actor like Roy Scheider in the lead role but it succeeds. Scheider’s weary face and laconic delivery of some of the best single lines in the film make it a good choice. Being an ex fighter Scheider would have the physical look for this look brutal, sweaty world of Dance and the stage. Performers, sweat here, the cry here, the get injured in both their body and their hearts here. Pills get popped, wine gets drunk and relationships mutate. Roy Scheider’s thin sinewy frame seems to hold it all in while reliving his past and flirting with the embodiment of Death itself in the person of white dressed Jessica Lange
The cinematography of Italian Giuseppe Rotunno is without a doubt some of the best to be shot in the small world of the Theatre. Dark gloss blacks, bright lights, Neon signs. mirrors, smoke plus brief moments on the real streets of New York make it a real treat. Interesting to note that Rotunno also worked on the 1966 disjointed yet notorious fantasy film CANDY.
The costumes all work. The use of solid black for Joe Gideon except when he goes outside he wears white goat. All the brights and dark colors have delicious urban used feel to them like the characters these people inhabit.
The crowd scenes backstage when Gideon is confronted by a irrate yet in effective film producer and is chastised for ‘going over budget on editing a movie while Gideon is cutting about a stand up Comic routine is priceless.
The music (yes there are songs) all fit with the Bob Fosse “Jazz Hands” dance moves along with the “Busby Berkeley on speed” inspired staging.
ALL THAT JAZZ (1979) caused some trouble(Like he didn’t already have enough problems) in Director Bob Fosse’s life as it was thought some of the portrayals of the Broadway people particularly the producers hit a little to close to home. Then again Fosse didn’t seem to care.
ALL THAT JAZZ (1979) is not ‘happy musical” yet it has a strange uplifting ending. Very worthy of been scene again on the wide screen.