ALL THAT JAZZ
US, 1979, 123 minutes, Colour.
Roy Scheider, Jessica Lange, Ann Reinking, Leland Palmer, Cliff Gorman, Ben Vereen, John Lithgow, Wallace Shawn, C.C.H. Pounder.
Directed by Bob Fosse.
Bob Fosse, actor, dancer, choreographer, director, co-wrote and directed this film about putting on a show on Broadway. It is also a semi-autobiographical film, focusing on Fosse's obsession with dancing, his inability to form permanent relationships, his womanising, his workaholism, his disregard of his health and reliance on drugs. Fosse first appeared as a dancer in MGM musicals of the 50s, most notably Kiss Me Kate. After directing shows on Broadway, he also moved into film direction in 1969 with Sweet Charity. He won an Oscar as best director in 1972 for Cabaret. His other films include Lennie and his final film, Star 80 about Peter Bogdanovich and Dorothy Stratton. He died soon after making Star 80.
The film is highly imaginative, a realistic look at putting on a show but a fantasy framework where the dying Joe Gideon (Roy Scheider in one of his best performances) reviews his life in an offhand way, discussing it with the Angel of Death, a strangely elaborately dressed Jessica Lange. The film also shows his relationship with his wife, played by dancer Leland Palmer, another love of his life, played by dancer Ann Reinking. In the meantime he is editing one of his films, The Stand- Up, which gives Cliff Gorman the opportunity to do some stand-up comedy about Elizabeth Kubler-Ross's Five Stages of Death - which then Joe Gideon has to apply to himself.
The musical numbers have the characteristically sinuous and rhythmic style of Fosse's choreography, especially the opening audition number and the Air-otic number which brings sexuality and sensuality to a song about people going on board a plane. It is also very stylised with Ben Vereen doing the dancing in the final parody of "Bye Bye Love" as "Bye Bye Life" as Gideon dies. There are some good numbers with Ann Reinking and Leland Palmer, especially "Everything Old is New Again".
The film shows the life behind the scenes, the financial deals, the rivalry amongst directors and producers so that there is realistic background to the hard work and glamour of the show. John Lithgow appears as a rival director, C.C.H. Pounder as an inefficient nurse and Wallace Shawn as an accountant.
1. Bob Fosse and his career, dancer, actor, choreographer, director? His distinctive choreographic style? The film as semi-autobiographical, workaholic, creative tyrant, disregarding his health, womaniser? How sympathetic a character - repellent characteristics, yet charm?
2. The theatre world, stage, rehearsal areas? The cinema and the editing room, screening rooms? Homes and apartments? Hospitals? The realistic aspects of the film?
3. The dance: auditions, Air-otic, the dances by Leland Palmer and Ann Reinking, by Michelle, the rehearsals, "Everything Old is New Again", "Bye Bye Life"? The sensuality, athleticism, rhythms?
4. The music, the Broadway songs, the classics? The fanfare for his saying, "It's Showtime"?
5. The title, reference to music, dance - and to everything?
6. The realism and Joe Gideon's career? The fantasy and his talking to Angelique? The structure of the screenplay, intercutting the two strands? Joe talking, his life, Angelique's questions, his having to admit his guilt, the memories, the irony? Angelique as a character, her strange dress, the elaborate veil, eventually removing the veil, being attracted towards Joe, kissing him? Her accompanying him in his journey back through life, accompanying him in his death, his finally going to her as he died?
7. The sketch of his background, his despising his father, his mother thinking that he was wonderful, the stand-up comedy in the early mornings at the bars, the nude girls, his sexual experience, their laughing at him, the audience laughing? His background as a dancer?
8. Joe and his skills in direction, choreography, being creative, yet vomiting out of nervousness, the auditions and his watching, talking to the people, smart talk? The rehearsals, his recreating the airplane sequence? Victoria, wanting her phone number, the sexual relationship, being hard on her, yelling at her, yet finally praising and kissing her? Audrey and Michelle watching the auditions, his relationship with them, the lies, the memory of the Philadelphia girl, Audrey remembering and his not? His health, smoking, coughing, going to the doctor who also coughed? Listening to Paul sing his song? The backers, their choices, the background of the money deals? The new and sexy choreography? His collapse and the postponing of the show? His work on the film, going over budget, endlessly editing it - and the exasperated producer having to admit that it was better?
9. Katie, relationship with Joe, her being hurt, wanting to love him, threatening to go to another man? Her skill in dancing? She and Audrey sharing the dances, Audrey and her sinuous dancing? Michelle, her relationship with her father, tolerance, his giving her lessons in dancing, she and Katie dancing for him?
10. The character of the producers, the composer, the camp background, the rival director, his listening, his pretence of disinterest, reading the text, making notes, asking about the contract? The girl in the restaurant asking for his autograph and unwittingly insulting him? The business meeting and the listing of all the costs in the rehearsals? Insurance and the options about making money or losing it?
11. The hospital sequences, Joe and his behaviour, his anger, his continued pain? In the wards, with the staff, flirting, drinking and smoking, having visitors and dancing? The doctor and his severity? The staff and having to cope? The build-up to the operation - and the intercutting of the musical number?
12. Ben Vereen as the comedian, his predictable lines? His introducing Joe at his death and not giving him a good introduction, the dancing of "Bye Bye Love/Life"? Joe and his participation? His saying goodbye to all his family and friends? The final image of the bag being zipped?
13. Cliff Gorman as the stand-up comic, the theme of death, Elizabeth Kubler- Ross and her five stages, his mocking them, satirising them? The application for Joe? The film and its acclaim - but the parody of the negative review on television with the balloons?
14. Portrait of a man, his life, the pills collage and "It's showtime"? The finale and credits with Ethel Merman singing "There's No Business Like Show Business"?