All That Jazz (1979)

all that jazz

Wow. Bob Fosse was kind of an asshole, huh? I’d never seen Cabaret (1972) or anything that he’d been associated with before. But this movie, which he wrote about himself and then directed, makes it crystal clear that he was a chauvinistic speed-freak for at least a short period of his life. All That Jazz (1979) is the most egomaniacal bit of cinema I’ve seen in quite some time. The whole thing is pretentious and self-absorbed. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing; to be sure, some of the best art on the planet is both pretentious and self-absorbed.

The film is much more morbid than I expected it to be, though: Fosse’s preoccupation with death is established early on and — I’m sorry for this terrible pun — beaten like a formerly living horse right up to the [admittedly haunting] conclusion. The movie is frenetically edited by the apparently obsessive Mr. Fosse, resulting in a relatively surreal musical meditation on mortality (and monogamy) that puts a tight spotlight on the sleazy, “backstage” life of Broadway performers. It also showcases a lot of bare skin and sexuality in the process, which I found quite enjoyable since I am far from a prude.

All That Jazz feels a little Felliniesque at times, although its rigid execution ensures a uniquely American tone throughout, and it never achieves the truly-dreamlike quality that seems to come so naturally to many European directors. It certainly packs a lot of interesting, modern philosophy into a colorful, engaging narrative — and Roy Scheider’s portrayal of Fosse is nothing short of fabulous. But it’s also hard to ruminate on your own personal demons while Fosse is delving so deeply into his.

Three pot leafs out of five for being such a rhythmic and raunchy spectacle:
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All That Jazz (1979)

Klute (1971)


This is a fine film in many ways. It held my attention, from beginning to end, with its dark, mysterious plot, while the script toyed with some extremely interesting themes and ideas. However, Klute only scratches the ugly surfaces of its taboo subjects, merely highlighting, for example, that call girls can be cultured and complex characters. (Duh.) And that darkness lurks in the hearts of some men. (Surely, we already knew that.) Ultimately, I can’t help thinking that the subject matter has been explored further — and with defter hands — in other films.

Donald Sutherland is a weird-looking dude. But he’s also a great leading man. Jane Fonda is awesome, and I do suppose she deserves the awards that she won for this role. But the scenes in which she’s talking to her psychologist — as well-acted as they are — literally ignore the “show, don’t tell” rule that I try to live by as a writer. The best thing about Klute is Roy Scheider, who plays a pseudo-intellectual, nearly-respectable pimp. But the movie is kind of like Taxi Driver (1967)… if Taxi Driver had been directed by Adrian Lyne.

Before it meanders to a climax, Klute finds time to backhandedly blame its victimized call girl for the violent assaults she endured/unleashed. But my main problems are actually related to the direction and cinematography: There’s not much action in the film, but when it does occur, it borders on disorienting. Also, many scenes are so dimly lit that it’s difficult to discern what’s going on.

I suspect that I should award Klute three pot leafs out of five, but I’m going to be harsh on the technical crew and give it only two:
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Klute (1971)