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Director Bob Fosse hasn't achieved an immense degree of recognition,
but his movies have a distinctive flavour. He seems to have an
obsession with the world of music-hall, which is felt in other movies
like "Sweet Charity" and "All that Jazz". In his other movies though,
musical performances tend to steal the show almost entirely. "Cabaret"
is an exception because it has an interesting background and storyline,
and the music-hall performances are cleverly used here to illustrate
and emphasize the plot. They play about the same role as the Chorus in
ancient Greek play.
Of course, the depiction of Cabaret's "Kit Kat Club" deserves attention all by itself. It is not surprising that a cabaret buff such as Bob Fosse took interest in the Weimar Republic period in Germany, when "divine decadence " was the name of the game. Only Bob Fosse could recreate with such consumed application the grotesque sleaze of Berlin's lowlife during the rise of Nazism, a context which served as inspiration for expressionist painters, and for Brecht's "Threepenny Opera". During the credits, check out a woman in the public with short hair and glasses smoking a cigarette (something quite dodgy in 1931!). It is the exact reproduction of a famous painting by Otto Dix.
An outrageously grinning clown (Joel Grey) introduces every cabaret number. The girls appear in all possible contorted postures keeping deadpan faces. The Kit Kat club reminds of a roman arena, where the public is out for anything insane (even women fights in the mud...). To give an idea of what sort of den the club is, Michael York finds himself at one point standing next to a transvestite in a men's urinal...The cabaret performances get all the more provocative as the plot gets tense. The club is an essentially immoral place where anything is for sale, and it adapts shamelessly to the radical political changes coming up.
Liza Minelli's character is totally at home in such surroundings. Her persona is perfectly sketched in her song "Bye Bye Mein Herr". She is the incarnation of the vamp, both heartless and ingenuous, the sort of lethal woman who drives men crazy and then gives them up like toys. Indeed, a very typical stereotype of the interwar period, think of Marlene Dietrich in "the Blue Angel"...Minelli's performance onstage with garter belts and a bowler hat still looks elegantly naughty today.
Though, the real nature of her character is well studied as soon as she gets offstage. While Minelli can't help being extravagant all the time, she turns out to be a fragile woman neglected by her father, and in demand of constant and renewed attention. As predicted in her song, she proves basically unable to engage in any serious relationship, despite her involvement with Michael York ( "And though I used to care, I need the open air, you'd every cause to doubt me Mein Herr").
The script was based a story by British writer Christopher Isherwood, called "A Goodbye to Berlin", based on his own personal memories. He is allegedly the character played by Michael York. A serious upper class young man, he meets Liza Minelli out of blind chance, while looking for an apartment to share. She introduces him to all sorts of people, from riff-raff to aristocracy, including a gigolo, a Jewish heiress, and an ambiguous baron who dismisses them both after having "played" with the two of them.
Michael York's sober performance looks a bit pale as opposed to histrionic Liza Minelli, but of course, that was necessary in order to stress the essential difference between those two strangers. The movie ends as they part on a railway platform, but one can guess their experience together will have changed them both, as as far as he is concerned, was a definite coming of age.
One of the scenes, in the middle of the movie, is quite disturbing. At a countryside inn, a young S.A man sings a song called "Tomorrow belongs to me", which starts out nostalgic but gradually turns into an infectious Nazi march as the whole crowd joins him. This unexpected number seems to have embarrassed many viewers. If Nazism had presented itself as pure evil, would it have met any success? This daring scene makes evident that it was for many Germans of the time the symbol of positive values : beauty, tradition, order, pride, future. If you didn't know how things turned out, would you not have been tempted to sing along this powerful hymn to the fatherland as you watch this? Good question to ask oneself even, or especially, nowadays...
On a historical level, a personal-story level, and as pure entertainment "Cabaret" works perfectly. The scene is Berlin, Germany, only two years before Hitler would come to total power. It is the Berlin that Christopher Isherwood lived in and wrote about: poverty, drug and alcohol escapism, criminals, sleazebags, fighting in the streets, venereal disease, the prostitution of both sexes, the desperation to escape through the film industry, the temporary escape from the harshness of life in "naughty" nightclubs like The Kit Kat Club, which encapsulates it all. It's a bad scene, and a good example of, perhaps, why so many Germans felt in need of a Hitler. There's not a single verbal reference to Hitler, and yet the presence of the growing Nazi movement all around these decadent misfits is ever present in this film. But you can't blame any of these apolitical people for that. Liza Minelli and Michael York's characters are so needy, so desperate just to find some personal happiness in life. They can't be bothered with what's going on in the bigger picture. Except for the Master Of Ceremonies at the Club: Joel Grey's character is a semi-supernatural all-seeing character, mocking, seeming to somehow know EXACTLY the further destruction Germany's headed for. His scary all-knowing grinning face pops in regularly to remind us. The musical number "Tomorrow Belongs To Me" is so effective an illustration of the appeal this new Nazi hope held for impoverished suffering Germans, and yet we have The Master Of Ceremonies' evil nodding grin to remind us, in retrospect, what it really led to.Just as every musical number (aside from being so beautifully choreographed and presented) reminds us of the desperation in Sally Bowles' life and in most of Germany. "Money Makes The World Go Around" is a perfect musical number, and so illustrative of the horrendous financial state of Germany at the time. Joel Grey's raunchy "Two Ladies" on the Kit Kat stage to the hysterical delight of the decadent crowd reminds us that all sexual propriety has broken down (including in the lives of the main characters, now involved in a threeway with one of the few Germans who still has some wealth intact). Everyone who wants an example of the artistic heights that film can reach should see "Cabaret".
I have a very hard time picking a favorite, favorite film, but if forced to create a Top 10 List, this film would be there. Yes, Liza Minnelli CAN act , and brilliantly. The songs are wonderful and funny, the narrative is brilliant and dark. Those who typically don't like musicals might enjoy this, as there are none of those cheesy "I feel a song coming on" moments - - all of the music is confined to the stage of the Kit Kat Klub. Michael York's role is often overshadowed by Minnelli's brassy Sally Bowles, but his work is equally strong. A+.
1973 was a very good year for legendary director/choreographer Bob Fosse. He won an Emmy for directing and choreographing the television special LIZA WITH A Z, he won a Tony for directing the Broadway musical PIPPIN, and blindsided Francis Ford Copolla by winning an Oscar for Best Director for CABARET, the dazzling 1972 film version, which is Fosse's re-thinking of the 1966 Broadway musical. The stage and screen versions are quite different and as independent works, they stand on their own as outstanding achievements and it is not necessary to have seen the play to appreciate the movie. The main focal point of Fosse's re-thinking of the musical is that he wanted it to be a more "realistic" musical and therefore made sure that all of the musical numbers (with the exception of "Tomorrow Belongs to Me")all took place within the walls of the Kit Kat Club. He cut several numbers from the original score, but if you listen, some of them can be heard as background music in several scenes. He also shifted the focus of the way the story is told...the play tells the story from the leading man's point of view, but Fosse switches the focus to the character of Sally Bowles, the brassy, sassy party girl who believes in "divine decadence' and wears bright green fingernail polish. Fosse also takes two secondary characters from the play, who are older, and makes them young and attractive in order to make their story more youth-friendly, I imagine. Liza Minnelli turns in a dazzling Oscar-winning performance as Sally, a gutsy, self-absorbed party girl who shows signs of vulnerability and a desperate need to be loved. Minnelli makes the most of her musical and non-musical moments in the film...her climactic confrontation with Brian (Michael York)is brilliantly performed. York is charming and sexy as Brian and Joel Grey's Oscar winning turn as the Master of Ceremonies is a delight. The musical numbers are all brilliantly staged and performed, from the opening number "Willkomenn" to the new "Money" song performed by Minnelli and Grey, to "Maybe this Time", the ballad belted out by Minnelli onstage in the empty club. Fosse cleverly counterparts the musical numbers with the realities of what is going on in Nazi Occupied 1931 Berlin with sometimes startling effect. "Tomorrow Belongs to Me" still gives me goosebumps every time I watch the film. This film ruled at the '73 Oscars, winning eight awards in all (it lost Best Picture to THE GODFATHER)and deserved every accolade it received. A sparkling, eye-popping, thought-provoking, haunting film experience that should be savored over and over again.
It's a strongest film I know. Every time I watch it, it bewilders me so I
can't turn my eyes away from the screen, even though I remember all what
happens by heart. It fills me with a strange mixed feeling of
interest-sympathy-admiration-disgust-and-horror. One of the reviewers here
called this film depressing, and I inclined to agree. Any picture of Berlin
in 1931 must be depressing and frightening. But, on the other hand, there is
an atmosphere of desperate reckless joy in the movie. When the entire world
goes mad and speeds to a catastrophe, life is a cabaret! Do what you can,
come hear the music play, don't permit some prophet of doom wipe every smile
away, and end as the happiest corpse! It's one idea. There is also another,
more humanistic: live and let live. Brian fails to understand Sally, so they
fall apart. Fritz for the sake of his love faces the danger of admitting
that he is Jew in Germany. There is no hope for him and Natalia in this
country in this time. But he couldn't do otherwise. There are plenty of
other ideas too: about money, politics, corruption, perverseness, decadence,
stupidity of middle classes, talent, success, etc. The story is very simple
and incredibly complicated in the same time. No use retelling it. It must be
seen. It's life as it was in 1931 and in many ways as it is nowadays. I
suppose that Cabaret would be a great film even without any musical numbers,
but with them it is a masterpiece. They say that history repeats itself, for
the first time as a tragedy, for the second time as a farce. Well, I would
say that in Cabaret every event repeats itself for the first time as a human
drama in life and for the second time as a farce on the stage, but it would
not be exactly true. Life and farce are shown synchronically or farce even
go in advance. But every staged number in divinely decadency Kit Kat Klub
ruthlessly shows the naked truth of life. (Only Mein Herr and Maybe This
Time have more to do with the character of Sally Bowles.) And of course,
Tomorrow Belongs To Me must be mentioned separately. The way of German
people towards fascism is presented in one startling scene. And in finale
too. That distorted reflection of the audience full of Nazi, accompanied by
a tense silence after Master's of Ceremonies Aufwiedershen' is horrible.
The movie due half of its unforgettable effect to the masterful camera
Actors' works are absolutely fantastical. Surely, Master Of Ceremonies is
Joel Grey star role. He is amazing as that demonic shameless figure that
seems to know everything, understand everything and deride everything. Liza
Minnelli shines in every scene, acting, speaking, singing and dancing. I
know few performances equally true, strong, brilliant and stylish as hers as
Sally Bowles. Michael York is excellent as well, though he is often
underestimated. It's only his character who is reserved, intelligent and
avoids show-off. And he is perfectly British. I really admire York's acting
in the movie. There are also beautiful Marisa Berenson as noble Natalia,
Fritz Wepper very believable as tormented Fritz, repulsively attractive
Helmut Griem as the rich scoundrel Maximilian and picturesque supporting
cast. John's Kander's music is wonderful and haunting.
Shortly, Cabaret is a work of a genius, or it would be better to say of geniuses: Bob Fosse and the crew and the cast. And it's flawless.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
'Cabaret' is a dazzling combination of music, drama, and social
'Cabaret' is more than a musical... It is tough, satirical, acrid, and provoking... None of the sweetness of Rodgers and Hammerstein, none of the joyous celebration of life of 'The Sound of Music.'
'Cabaret' is an exciting place for music...
'Cabaret' is the first musical to exploit the notion that life is fascinating because it is ambiguous...
'Cabaret' uses music in an exciting new way... His characters do not disintegrate into song to express their emotions... Rather, a sleazy night club becomes a place where satirical comment on the lives and problems of these characters is made in striking, entertaining, and often in ferocious dances and songs...
'Cabaret' is only one of three major elements that remains separate in the film and then gradually and inexorably become melted into one... These elements are the music of the cabaret, the lives of the principal characters, and the world outside of their narrow domain...
Director Bob Fosse captures the atmosphere and turmoil of the time and place, just before Hitler's rise to power, presenting a multifaceted portrait of a hedonistic, increasingly dangerous society, in which every brushstroke is significant and influential...
The cast, headed by Liza Minnelli as an American cabaret star and Michael York as the shy Englishman suffering with the fact that he "doesn't like girls," perfectly embodied the characters caught up in the currents of the tale...
The film begins with an amorphous view of Berlin's Kit Kat Club in 1930s Germany, and as the view becomes clearer, we meet the nightclub's depraved customers and its host, the charming painted emcee, who sings 'Willkommen' as the cabaret's girls play their musical instruments... At this moment, the Kit Kat Club shows a world unconcerned with events... Sally is a citizen of this world, deliberately shocking, cheerfully promiscuous, a lost child masquerading as a seductive woman...
Away from the nightclub, Sally plays the leading role in a fantasy of her own imagination... Speaking almost entirely in emotional hyperbole, she regards herself as 'a strange and extraordinary person'... She takes Brian under her wing and one day introduces him to Helmut Griem, a rich, suave, divinely sexy baron with whom they both have affairs...
Everyone becomes part of her free world: an unseen father who is indifferent to her; and Marisa Berenson, a young serious Jewish department-store heiress who is feverishly courted by an opportunistic, a fortune hunter, called Fritz Wendel (Fritz Wepper)..
At first Sally's insulated life bears little relation to the events propelling Germany toward its bleak destiny... Gradually, however, the cabaret becomes more threatening; the Master of Ceremonies provides the historical and social themes throughout his songs.. (he and Sally sing 'Money makes the world go 'round').. Later he sings a stimulating 'Two Ladies' about the joys of a ménage à trois.. He even dances with a girl in a gorilla costume, singing 'If You Could See Her' adding in a confidential whisper, 'If you could see her through my eyes, she wouldn't look Jewish at all!"
Only once does the film leave the nightclub for a musical number in an outdoor café, and then it is for one of the film's most haunting scenes, where a young boy begins to sing 'Tomorrow Belongs To Me'.. While Fosse's camera pans down to reveal his sinister insignia... started to sing along with patriotic passion... It is a sequence of frightening beauty, made even more memorable by several quick shots of an elderly man, silently sitting on a table.. disapproving the song...
When the pathetic Master of Ceremonies tells us once again that 'life is beautiful' and the Kit Kat Girls break into a reprise of 'Willkommen,' the irony is devastating... The final shot of the growing of Nazis in the audience reinforces the menace of the political horrors, and turns the cabaret into a daring place of diverting escapism...
As Sally, Liza Minnelli is entirely a creature of cabaret... She sings the title song in a number of stunning effectiveness... The song sums up the film's sardonic view... Minnelli is required to go from a girl of easy virtue proclaiming that 'certain cigarettes make her go wildly sensual' to a helpless person sobbing 'Maybe I am.. just nothing!' --- but she manages to control the connections of mood with style and sensitivity... In one song, 'Maybe This Time', she is too close to her mother Judy Garland.. as the two possess a similar intensity, warm vibrato, the blend of pathos and humor, and an over-eagerness to communicate with their audiences...
'Cabaret' is not unforgettable... It is great entertainment, a daring piece of diverting escapism that hopefully will revitalize a tired form...
The movie is perfect. You will enjoy the bright play of brightest
actors as well as tunes that have become classical. In any moment you
can pause a movie and get a picture that you'd want to hang up on the
wall in your house - so beautiful the movie is. If you can play any
musical instrument, you will definitely try playing tunes from Cabaret.
But the film has more than that : it also shows how Germany was slowly
but inevitably turning to fascism. You feel scary when you listen to a
song "Tomorrow belongs to me" and see that the boy singing the song
wears the Nazi emblem on his shoulder. It gives you this sort of
"I-know-what-will-be-in-the-end" feeling you have when you see
newspapers and videos made years ago - yet it reveals some sides you
didn't know about.
Cabaret is a very deep movie. There are lots of details in the movie - brightly exposed to us by an excellent cameraman - which create a second, historical storyline which you start to understand only after you watch the movie for a while. Cabaret is the kind of movie you'd want to see several times.
This landmark masterpiece defies strict classification. It is one of a few movies which defines cinema. It's undefinable as a genre because it works as a musical, as drama, as a comedy, as a war movie, as a social satire, as a historical epic, as a masterpiece of cinematic choreography, AND THE LIST GOES ON. Interestingly, it is over powering not only as a film, but as an original Broadway musical, a novel, a play, and most recently as a revamped musical which incorporates the new songs and choreography created especially for the film into the original show. And the Tony and other awards from other media keep pouring in. The new DVD version is a must. This is the movie that in a very tight Oscar race year (like 1939 with Gone with the Wind, etc.), won NINE Academy Awards. And that against the Godfather! (Part I, just for starters.) The late Bob Fosse did score a major coup by winning the Best Director Award over the favored legendary Director of the Godfather. Fosse's delegacy lives on...on film, and on stage right now in London, Berlin, and New York where the CABARET revival, did I mention CHICAGO?, and FOSSE, the musical- based on his life- including a piece from the movie of Cabaret continue to dazzle new generations. The DVD is a knock out too. Truly one of the best, a cliche often said. THIS CLAIM, however, IS A FACT.
A young English man named Brian(Michael York, in a character based on
Christopher Isherwood's experiences) develops a relationship with a
reckless young American girl named Sally(Liza Minnelli at a wonderful
performance to the edge of tragedy) in Berlin during the 30s in which
Hitler is rising to power and racism, anti-Semitism and determinedly
amoral behavior are growing. They're both then seduced by a German rich
aristocrat named Max(Helmut Griem). Meanwhile Brian works as English
teacher for an elegant young Jewish(Marisa Berenson) and his friend
Fritz Wendel(Fritz Wippel), both of whom falling in love. All the roles
are linked by the Kit-Kat club where perform Sally and an androgynous
master of ceremonies(Joel Grey , he deservedly won Oscar to best
It's a magnificent musical-drama well set on Germany where are increasing horrors of Nazism taking place on its grim moments. Atmospheric nostalgia piece from the stories of Christopher Isherwood and successfully creating a portrait of a nation falling into moral decay. It's one of the most perfect examples of accurate timing over a sustained period ever put on cinema. This dynamic film packs excellent musical numbers full of aggression, fire and turn out to be unmissable experience. Liza Minnelli, Michael York and Joel Grey give the acting of their lives. Glamorous and evocative cinematography by Geoffrey Unsworth . Based on the John Kander's hit Broadway musical and soundtrack by Ralph Burns full of classic songs. This story was formerly brought to life by Henry Cornelius (1959) with Laurence Harvey(Brian role) and Julie Harris(Sally role) in a good drama no musicalized.
¨Cabaret¨ is an impressive picture splendidly directed by Bob Fosse(1927-1987) and winning three Oscars. Fosse was a director, actor, choreographer and dancer. He choreographed : ¨My sister Eileen, The Pijama game, Damn Yankees¨ and directed another films with awesome musical sequences such as ¨Sweet charity and All that jazz¨.
Pre-Nazi Germany is a hotbed of escalating tensions, but decadent nightclub performer Sally Bowles is oblivious to the encroaching horrors. If you know a little about Liza Minnelli and you're curious, "Cabaret" should make you a fan; if you're not interested or just don't like her, "Cabaret" probably isn't the movie for you. Liza is the heart, soul, and centerpiece of the picture; when she's on-screen, everybody else is irrelevant. Movie-fans still discuss whether Liza was actually acting the role of Sally Bowles or just being herself (her Oscar-win still draws debates--Diana Ross in "Lady Sings The Blues" is oft-times described as 'robbed' for the Best Actress statue). Indeed, time has proved that Minnelli had a whole lot in common with Sally, the parallels are even echoed in much of the dialogue, but this part utilizes her entire range (sarcastic sass, vulnerable imp, high-powered musical presence) and she's fabulous. She doesn't do anything small, even her quiet moments are extraordinary. Her final speech to Michael York ("How soon would it be before we started hating each other?") is a knockout, as good as any of her musical numbers, and when he lashes out in anger, she sighs, "If you wanna hit me, why don't'cha just hit me?" She can be fragile and wounded, but it's in her spirit to get right back up and perform. The film is a burlesque nightmare, amazingly directed by Oscar winner Bob Fosse, who also choreographed the musical numbers, and photographed by Geoffrey Unsworth, another Oscar recipient. ***1/2 from ****
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