Sunday, December 27, 2009

All That Fosse; Facebook

While there are dozens of Broadway songs I like, watching the shows they come from is another matter. I've never gotten used to people suddenly breaking into song. It embarrasses me and/or looks pretty damned silly.

I mention this because way back in 1979 the woman I had a date with one Saturday night insisted that we see "All That Jazz," the essential Bob Fosse story as written and directed by Bob Fosse and starring Roy Scheider. As far as I was concerned this would be people suddenly breaking into song to the highest power.

Well, I not only enjoyed it, I was convinced that I'd seen a true piece of art, high or low I didn't care. For one thing Scheider, who never quite got the break he deserved (and who is a brother of sorts in that he died of multiple myeloma) gave a performance I'm not sure anybody had thought him capable of. Not easy to make a guy like Fosse, brilliant, egomaniacal, ruthless appealing on any level. I don't know anything about dance but by the end of the film Fosse (he wrote it, remember) had convinced me he was a great innovator if not a genius. It is also a chilling foreshadowing of a tormented man rushing to his death.

For hayseeds like me "All That Jazz" is enlightening because we get to see just how difficult it is to be a musical performer, whether dancer, singer, actor. And for another breaking into song started to seem a little less silly to me than it once had.

If I had an objection to the film it was that Scheider-Fosse's relationships with women cast him a little too coyly as the heartbreaker. Yeah, I'm sure he did get around but a celebratory air sneaks into these moments and spoils them for me. These scenes struck me as the the kind of writing most guys would do about themselves if they knew nobody else would ever read it. In other words a macho fantasy and that would shrivel in daylight.

All this from memory. I probably haven't seen the movie for at least a decade. But a piece in the NY Times this morning sent me to the video store--which didn't have it. I'll try Net-Flix.

From the New York Times this morning:

ember 27, 2009
All That Fosse: All Those Echoes of ‘All That Jazz’

“IT’S showtime, folks.”

That’s the mantra of Joe Gideon (Roy Scheider), the boozing, chain-smoking, pill-popping, womanizing, workaholic filmmaker-choreographer hero of the 1979 drama “All That Jazz,” a hopped-up American variant of Federico Fellini’s navel-gazing fantasia “8 ½” (1963).

Those three words — recited by Gideon into the bathroom mirror each morning after downing a breakfast of Dexedrine and Alka-Seltzer and listening to Antonio Vivaldi’s “Concerto Alla Rustica” — sum up both the character and his real-world counterpart, Bob Fosse, the choreographer, theater director and filmmaker, who died in 1987 at 60. He was a Gideon-level workaholic who ended “All That Jazz,” a self-written advance obituary, with a shot of his alter ego being zipped into a body bag while the soundtrack plays Ethel Merman’s definitive version of “There’s No Business Like Show Business.”

But Gideon’s mantra also summarizes that movie’s significance within narrative film, a mode of storytelling that rarely dares venture beyond the linear for fear of confusing the viewer.

Released 30 years ago this month, “All That Jazz” set a new standard for speed and complexity, its structure boasting as many temporal pirouettes as the headiest art house fare. Yet the film never feels labored. It’s not homework. It’s showtime.


I won't belabor my computer stupidity. I've lost my Facebook security code and can't find--after literally hours of trying over the past week--any way to retrieve. They have no customer service phone number and the frequently asked don't deal with this question--unless I'm missing something. If there's a wizard or wizardess out there who could help me I'd appreciate it.


Dave Zeltserman said...

Ed, I agree. "All That Jazz" is a knockout. A stunner of a film and one of my favorites. And the ending is absolutely heartbreaking. And Roy Scheider gives a truly inspired and amazing performance.

KentAllard said...

I saw All That Jazz a half dozen times when it was at the theater. And Scheider/Fosse does get a little humility in one scene. He's talking to Death (Kim Basinger) about living in a menage-a-trois with two women, which ended when one left, leaving behind a note that read "I can't bear to share you." After he tells the story, Basinger asks, "What makes you think the note was for you?" Great movie, far and away my favorite musical.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I well remember standing in line to see this and was blown away. Not many musicals integrate the things this one did in such an artful, original way.

Peter L. Winkler said...

Jessica Lange, not Kim Basinger.

John Kenyon said...

Ed, by Facebook "security code," do you just mean your password? If so, above the spot on the homepage where you log in, it has a link to "forgot your password?" If you click on that, they'll e-mail you a link to reset it.

Kenneth Mark Hoover said...

Def a good movie except for the interminable ending.