Joe Gideon is a Broadway director, choreographer and filmmaker, he in the process of casting the chorus and staging the dance numbers for his latest Broadway show, starring his ex-wife Audrey Paris in what is largely a vanity project for her in playing a role several years younger than her real age, and editing a film he directed on the life of stand-up comic Davis Newman. Joe's professional and personal lives are intertwined, he a chronic philanderer, having slept with and had relationships with a series of dancers in his shows, Victoria Porter, who he hired for the current show despite she not being the best dancer, in the former category, and Kate Jagger, his current girlfriend, in the latter category. That philandering has led to relationship problems, with Audrey during their marriage, and potentially now with Kate who wants a committed relationship with Joe largely in not wanting the alternative of entering the dating world again. Joe also lives a hard and fast life, he chain ...Written by
Read my review of "Newsies" if you want my opinion of the musical genre. People just don't break into song-and-dance numbers in the course of their daily lives. Unless they are Bob Fosse, when suddenly doing so not only makes sense, but makes you wonder how we can go through life NOT singing and dancing.
What this movie is, is simple: Bob Fosse unveiling his life, his knowledge, and a detailed explanation of his creative process, for future generations to evolve. This film is part biography, part self-exploration, and part legacy. It is the "legacy" part that is overlooked by almost everyone. If you ever dreamed of becoming a choreographer, this is the ideal place to start, because you'll watch, over and over, as Joe Gideon (Roy Schieder as the fictionalized Fosse) puts his stamp on a dance number, a process so unique and brilliant that it could easily be classified as its own form of dance rather than a subset of modern dance. If three words could sum up Fosse's style of choreography it would be "make it sexier." Then make it even sexier. Then, when you're done, you need to make it even sexier. The "Airotica" number exemplifies this, and served as the inspiration for Paula Abdul's "Cold Hearted" video.
The movie brings Fosse's inner circle and personal life to the screen, pulling absolutely no punches. Some call this film a form of narcissism, but it's hard to see how a man looking for self-given glory would portray himself falling apart physically and personally, the years obviously having taken a toll, as well as the emotional baggage that comes with abandoning family life (and a brilliantly played daughter by Erzsebet Foldi, in what would be her only film before she retired) for a girlfriend with some side dishes for variety. The women hate Gideon's infidelity, but love the man so dearly they know not to question or challenge it.
Throughout the film, we are treated to vignettes that comprise the mosaic that is the life of Fosse. Metaphors abound, and the music blends effortlessly into a film that can make two hours seem like two minutes. This is not a film that could have been written and will not be enjoyed by those of simple intellects. So much of the plot exists in the abstract, and it is up to the viewer to find what is often an incredibly subtle symbolism. Simply put, this is a well-constructed film. Fosse's ex-wife and dance protégé, Ann Reinking, auditioned for (!) and won the part based on her, while the supporting cast includes many solid names, even a young John Lithgow as Lucas. Fosse's daughter makes a cameo in the film, as does the film editor. The comedian who appears as the subject of a movie is based on Lenny, a previous Fosse film.
Joe Gideon is what everyone should be no matter what they do: someone who doesn't copy others, but develops their own vision and then methodically, sometimes maniacally, makes it happen. He lives in the moment, and squeezes everything he can out of each moment. This is evidenced by Gideon's brilliant work, but also by his rapidly deteriorating health caused by living in the party moments as well as the serious ones.
The ending number is for the ages, putting a spin on the sappy endings that musicals are famous for.
Your life is lacking until you have seen this film. That it did not win the Best Picture Oscar for its year was an absolute tragedy. It is one of the five best films of all time.
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