Cambridge University student Brian Roberts arrives in Berlin in 1931 to complete his German studies. Without much money, he plans on making a living teaching English while living in an inexpensive rooming house, where he befriends another of the tenants, American Sally Bowles. She is outwardly a flamboyant, perpetually happy person who works as a singer at the decadent Kit Kat Klub, a cabaret styled venue. Sally's outward façade is matched by that of the Klub, overseen by the omnipresent Master of Ceremonies. Sally draws Brian into her world, and initially wants him to be one of her many lovers, until she learns that he is a homosexual, albeit a celibate one. Among their other friends are his students, the poor Fritz Wendel, who wants to be a gigolo to live a comfortable life, and the straight-laced and beautiful Natalia Landauer, a Jewish heiress. Fritz initially sees Natalia as his money ticket, but eventually falls for her. However Natalia is suspect of his motives and cannot ...Written by
The bit of "Tomorrow Belongs to Me" with a chorus of Hitler Youth singing the song was cut when the film was first released in West Berlin. When the film aired on television there in 1976, the cuts were reinstated. See more »
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".
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