Wednesday, October 8, 2014

649. All That Jazz (1979)

Running Time: 123 minutes
Directed By: Bob Fosse
Written By: Robert Alan Aurthur, Bob Fosse
Main Cast: Roy Scheider, Jessica Lange, Leland Palmer, Ann Reinking, Erzsebet Foldi
Click here to view the trailer


This whole "do whatever you want" Tuesday deal that me and my wife struck up is really helping me to be a little more productive when it comes to the blog and the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die book. Once again, yesterday I managed to knock off two more movies and move two steps closer to the short term goal of having only 100 films remaining.

A FANTASTIC shot of Reinking and one that all movie lovers have probably seen, whether they've seen this movie or not. If I were her, I'd have a gigantic copy of this hanging in my home.

I was really excited to see this film, especially considering how much I took to Cabaret when I watched it a few years back for THE BOOK. I'd seen the iconic picture of the woman decked out in a black bowler hat, black sequined outfit and dark leggings and have always thought it a great shot. The film basically tells the tale of Fosse's life, as he chit chats with the Angel of Death (Lange) and is portrayed by a character named Joe Gideon (Scheider). At the film's core is Gideon's hair pulling efforts to produce the musical Chicago and one of the earlier scenes shows him casting for it. We also learn early on that Joe is a womanizer, a flirt, a cheater, a relationship failure, yet a good father, a perfectionist and a hard worker. We watch as he downs Dexedrine tablets to stave off exhaustion as well as pumping Vizine into his eyes and chugging Alka Seltzer, all to deal with the stress of show biz. He ignores chest pains, instead yelling at his dancers, telling them to "do it again!" and this time better! Joe's ex-wife, Audrey (Palmer) still collaborates with him as the two try to cooperate in raising their daughter Michelle (Foldi) together. His current girlfriend, Katie (Reinking) loves him despite his philandering heart. Meanwhile, the whole thing is intercut with scenes of a stand-up comedian, as Joe frantically tries to edit a film he made about the comic (mirroring Fosse's real life film, Lenny). According to THE BOOK the film is often compared to Fellini's 8 1/2, as it's a director basically telling his own story through film.


Boy, I really wanted to like this one and I DID!....except, not as much as I thought I would. Let's tackle the good stuff first and then we'll transition into the bad. First of all, who doesn't love Roy Scheider? Probably some of you, actually, but I really wouldn't know why! He's so good in everything I've seen him in and All That Jazz is no different. How hard must it have been to be portraying the man that is directing you! There had to be some pressure on Scheider there to get the performance just so, don't you think? Of course, when you're talking about Fosse, you're talking about choreography and this film is chock full of great dance sequences. My personal favorite had to be the big presentation in the middle where Gideon has his dancers show the producers of Chicago what they've come up with so far. The whole thing ends up turning into some orgiastic opera, but it's all done so classy! I actually think I was hypnotized by the numbers at one point, as I could actually see myself just gaping in awe of the choreography on display. Just a fantastic scene! I gushed about Scheider but really the entire cast was fine and I even found myself not totally hating the kid that played Gideon's daughter (I normally hate kid actors, but she wasn't awful).

Of course, the whole thing IS structured a lot like 8 1/2 and while I gave that film a decent review when I watched it for the blog, I've since gone back and tried to rewatch it to lesser success. That was an early review where I still may have been trying to kid myself into liking things that I really didn't have a taste for. My point is, is that I could've done without all the Angel of Death stuff and the big fantasy sequence at the end where Gideon basically dies in grand fashion, as only Bob Fosse could possibly imagine his own death. You see, I'm even willing to admit that it was all very Fosse, yet at the same time very much not for me. There were certain scenes where the film flew by, yet other times (like the last thirty minutes) where I'd had my fill and was just ready for the movie to end already. I will say that the whole thing was like one, overly long eulogy to his own self and that was unique enough to earn the movie a few brownie points and probably a permanent place in my cinematic memory bank - it's definitely not a movie that will wash off easy. I guess what I'm trying to say is that if you're looking for the definitive Fosse then this is probably the one for you. However, if you want the one that's more accessible and easier to get into, then Cabaret is the movie for you, as I found it a whole lot more enjoyable than this, despite having less stunning dance numbers. The plot is more prevalent in Cabaret, while All That Jazz seems to be, at times, serving Fosse's own needs. Hey it's his death film, why not let the man have what he wants - I'm not complaining, just saying I had my issues with it.

RATING: 6.5/10  Can't go into '7' territory because that's a whole new ballgame, but it wasn't bad either. It's definitely the best thing I've seen in the past week, that's for sure.


October 8, 2014  8:28pm


  1. It's an truth, universally acknowledged (well, on both here and Amanda's site), that Ray, in possession of a good DVD player is not in search of a musical.
    But.. I have always made a exception for Cabaret* , and I found myself comparing and .. well, not quite ranking along side.. but being fairly happy with this one.

    1. Man, we're agreeing a lot lately Ray. Nothing wrong with that, but a definite change of pace to our usual respectful disagreeing....hope don't jinx it!


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