Cabaret (1972) Poster


User Reviews

Review this title
205 Reviews
Sort by:
Filter by Rating:
Divine decadence
francheval15 February 2006
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...
185 out of 218 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Joel Grey's MC bespeaks uncomfortable truths through risqué entertainment
antagonist1178 August 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Joel Grey's MC, the iconic centerpiece of "Cabaret," is a fool in the Shakespearean sense: his outrageous makeup and clownish demeanor give him license to speak the most embarrassing truths and to broach the strictest taboos. We never see him out of his MC persona, but we do see two layers to his performances. As the host of an interwar Berlin burlesque, he is on one level—and perhaps for him it is the only level—an entertainer for Nazi fatcats and wealthy Yanks and Brits on continental vacations. But art imitates life, and we can also see, perhaps all too plainly, how the songs that the MC presents mirror events in the world outside the club. The Nazi party's growing boldness is displayed through rapid cuts between mob violence in the streets and the MC's cartoonish goosestepping on stage. The unusual love triangle between Liza Minelli's hopeful actress and her British and German paramours has its telling parallel in the song "Two Girls." Most shockingly and ambiguously, the MC lampoons anti-Jewish miscegenation laws by romancing a person in a gorilla suit and asking why society should stand in the way of their love. Would the Nazi party view this routine as an endorsement of their policies, since the idea of a human and a gorilla in love is patently foolish, or would they understand that the MC's question had truly moved the audience in spite of the veneer of absurdist comedy? The music of "Cabaret" underlines the plot points in very bold strokes, but it works because everything is so unabashedly theatrical. Matching Joel Grey's achievement and far outshining a weak turn from Michael York, Liza Minnelli gives an all-time great performance, particularly in the songs "Mein Herr" and the title tune.
14 out of 15 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Perfect On All Levels
joe720 November 1999
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".
102 out of 136 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
That's what I call a masterpiece
o_levina18 April 2002
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 shots. 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.
51 out of 67 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Life is a cabaret old chum! Come to the Cabaret.
ironhorse_iv19 June 2014
Warning: Spoilers
Willkommen, bienvenue, welcome! Fremde, etranger, stranger. This movie is phenomenal, one of the best of all time musicals ever. Directed by Bob Fosse, what a marvelous performances by Joel Grey and Liza Minnelli in this picture. Cabaret is a lot of fun to watch. The film is loosely based off the 1939's book written by Christopher Isherwood call 'Berlin Stories: Goodbye to Berlin" and John Van Druten's 1951's play, 'I am a Camera'. Cabaret was made into a Broadway musical in 1966 with music by John Kander, and lyrics by Fred Ebb. When it became a hit, a movie was produce in 1972, to capitalize on this fame. The film is set in Berlin during the Weimar Republic in 1931, under the ominous presence of the growing Nazi Party where a small night club call Kit Kat Klub is struggling to survive during the coming months of the harsh new regime. Since the musical kept on rewriting the script, as years passed by. A lot of the source material has change over time. In this version, young American Sally Bowles (Liza Minnelli) performs at the Kit Kat Klub, while running a boarding house. A new English teacher arrival in the city, Brian Roberts (Michael York), and moves in with her. At first, they kept each other at reservations, trying not to fall in love with each other. As time go on, the two find themselves madly in love with each other, while the world is finding new ways to keep them apart. The acting is pretty good. I really can't picture anybody else in the role of Sally Bowles. Indeed, Liza singing is way too talent than her character is supposed to be, but it didn't really hurt the film. Sally Bowles was based on Jean Ross, an aspiring actress, singer and writer, who lived a colorful life. Jean Ross was offended by the character portrayal by Liza, call it apolitical. After all, Jean Ross is kinda right. Sally Bowles might not be the most likable character as she does a lot of pretty awful stuff, but the way, Liza Minnelli sink you in, with her charm. You can't help, feeling for her. She always had that frantic, nervous, almost desperate disposition in everything Liza's in. It really does explain why she didn't had much of a film career after this. Normally I find this off-putting, but here, it works perfectly in this role. Sally always looks and sounds like she's in deep, desperate denial about her life and the state of Berlin, and constantly seems on the edge of a nervous breakdown. I really fell pity for Michael York's character to having to deal with her. I never understood why, they change the character name from Cliff Bradshaw to Brian Roberts. It seem a bit odd. I found York acting alright, but he never stood out, much. I did find his big reveal to Sally about what happen to Maximilian von Heune (Helmut Griem), midway through the movie to be a great twist. That wasn't in the stage versions. The movie also dealt with sub-plots, dealing with other characters like Fritz Wendel (Fritz Wepper), a German Jew passing as a Christian who fall in love with Natalia Landauer (Marisa Berenson), a wealthy German Jewish heiress. This part of the film, always felt like a different movie. It never mixed, well. The sub-plot from the novel, involves the doomed romance between German boarding house owner Fräulein Schneider and her elderly suitor, Herr Schultz, a Jewish fruit vendor never got anywhere, as it was cut from the film. I also glad, they cut the dead dog scene. That was pretty awful. In the traditional manner of musical theater, every significant character in the stage version of Cabaret sings to express emotion and advance the plot, foreshadowing every song with Master of Ceremonies (Joel Grey). Fosse cut a lot of songs like 'Don't tell momma', 'So What?", "Telephone Song", "Perfectly Marvelous", "Why Should I Wake Up?", "The Money Song", "It Couldn't Please Me More", "Meeskite" and "What Would You Do?" He replace them with new songs like 'Mein Herr' and 'Money, Money". There were a lot better than those other songs. The song 'Willkommen' and 'Cabaret' were after all the best pieces in the musical. The club serves as a metaphor for the threatening state of late Weimar Germany that is clear. While this might be long stretch, the film could also be a metaphor of American Ku Klux Klan movement that was gaining ground in the 1960s. After all, the club had the same initials of the Klan. Indeed, the KKK didn't embrace Nazism, because they believes in an entirely different form of government and freedoms. But like the film, the culture of the KKK embracing Nazism into their lives. It might be something to think about. Honestly, the only song that wasn't play at the club was 'Tomorrow belongs to me' in the beer garden by the German youth was powerful. What a really great haunting song by two great Jewish songwriters. Great use of the elderly man in the background of that scene. Director Bob Fosse knew how to film this movie, and that's one of his greatest shots in the film. For a movie rated PG. It's has strong adult themes. The ending to the film is hard to swallow. Unlike other musicals at the time, this one doesn't end with a positive note. Still, the movie was indeed a success, and won many Academy Awards with 8. It would had won Best Picture in that year if the Godfather film wasn't so damn awesome. The movie is easy to find, despite not being available in high-def or digital presentation, due to a really bad scratch on the original film. Overall: it's was a great commentary on the "mask of normalcy" people are wearing during the rise of Fascism in Germany. A must watch for any musical lover.
11 out of 12 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
An effective, dark film that is a talent show for Liza Minelli
BaseballRaysFan27 October 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Is there a real difference between Europe and the U.S. in the Great Depression era (the era of this film) and now? In the 1930s, Europe, the U.S., and the rest of the world were in a horrible economic melt-down. The stage was set for a man like Hitler to use his charisma to take power by giving people - especially young people - an ideal to fight for.

I think one of the most effective scenes in this superb, dark film is the way they do the song "Tomorrow Belongs To Me". A great song, but to me the way it is done is very effective. It opens with a tight close-up of a young man who starts singing. All you can see is his face. He begins to sing and the camera slowly backs out to reveal that he is a Nazi. Very well done. The young people in the audience are shown in close-ups, rising and singing this song, but, like the lead vocalist, not joyously. To me, it was almost like they're "programmed" to rise and sign along with it. The faces are of hate and determination, not joy about a more beautiful tomorrow. It's as if the movie wants to show that they have been brainwashed. They are willing to fight and die if needed for their ideals and one is either for or against them.

Also effective is the comment by Michael York at the end of the scene, where he asks "Do you still think you can control them?" and then, in a haunting way, we see Joel Gray as the M.C. in his pancake makeup with an eerie "See, I told you so. There is much more to come" smile. Powerful stuff. To me, that scene sums up the whole movie.

A powerful, tour-De-force show for Liza Minelli and a fascinating commentary on the Germany of the Great Depression. It is an effective although depressing film.
14 out of 16 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
lasttimeisaw9 April 2013
A timeless classic! The musical numbers alone are superlative, even the 30-years-younger CHICAGO (2002, 8/10) pales in comparison. My very first Bob Fosse's film, certainly the film gained its classic fame as the biggest winner of the Oscar in 1973, with 8 wins (including BEST DIRECTOR, LEADING ACTRESS and SUPPORTING ACTOR) and nearly usurped the BEST PICTURE trophy from THE GODFATHER (1972, 9/10), if it had been so, it would be inflicted with much notorious backfire in the film history, but the film itself is an unerring gem among the undying musical genre, my first viewing is a thoroughly exultant experience, and cut and dried, it's on my guilty-pleasure list.

It is my first Liza Minnelli's film as well, the cabaret's "international sensation" Sally Bowles, an innocuous vamp, Liza grants her role a disarming vitality and quaintly resembles a bobbed Anne Hathaway doppelgänger, not only radiates her grandeur in rendering her doughty-yet-alluring show tunes (she is born to do it), her portrayal of Sally personal life is equally (if not more) affecting, her doe-eyed naivety and unrestrained zest for life, for love, for fame elevate her character as the master of her own fate, her sacrifice may not gain concurrence from motley views of life, but a full obeisance to her independence and pluck is duly earned.

Michael York, behind his gawky effeminacy, plunges himself into a more contentious venture, Brian Roberts, his character's bookish bi-sexual temperament is a provocative taboo on big screen (like since ever) and the implicit ménage à trois temptation (with Sally and the suave Helmut Griem, whose gentrified debonair is utterly irresistible) has been simmering to the perfect temperature, under-girds a manifestation of initiating a sex-liberation wave (germane to the 70s era while against the Nazi-rising milieu in the film).

There is a subplot dealing with a bromide of a down-and-out German guy's infatuation with a rich but prude Jewish girl, there is an ironic twist near the end, however never quite manages to steal the limelight from Sally and Bri, but Marisa Berenson's placid performance is still worthy of backslapping (the dichotomy of women's images is a trifle stale though).

Joel Grey, as the so called "Master of Ceremonies" and won an Oscar (against three fellows from THE GODFATHER), serves only as the performer in the film, no clear attachment with the plot, his musical set pieces are burlesque, risqué but entertaining to the bone, with a strenuous mimicry of German accent, it is a hard-earned honor, although I don't understand how Al Pacino could lose at any rate.

The film drops its curtain right before the prevalence of Nazi's atrocity, the ending with the vague reflections of Third Reich audience occupying the place has sublimated the materialistic razzle-dazzle onto an eerily ominous scope which the film has no interest to tamper but the audiences will intuit what will happen next. A great windup, neat and potent!
13 out of 15 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
My favorite snippet of dialogue
caircair25 May 2004
Warning: Spoilers
How can you NOT like this film? Liza Minnelli, Joel Grey, Michael York, et. al. are perfectly cast. The music is wonderful, the fact nobody "bursts into song" is refreshing, and everything comes together as it should.

But I have yet to see anyone comment on just how well the script was written. It's full of small moments, witty dialogue, and grows progressively darker in tone, until the movie ends with a song and a shudder.

Incidentally, this movie contains my very favorite piece of dialogue, contained in the fight between Sally and Brian: (Spoiler ahead)

Brian: "Oh, Screw Maximilian!"

Sally: (smugly) "I do."

Brian: (at first stunned, then with a wry smile) "So do I."
17 out of 21 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Definitely in the Top 10
Red7Eric10 August 1998
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+.
82 out of 123 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Hugely successful tale set on Nazi Germany with classic musical sequences and unforgettable songs
ma-cortes21 July 2009
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 support cast).

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¨.
26 out of 35 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
The Center Jewel in Bob Fosse's Triple Crown
Isaac58556 December 2005
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.
53 out of 77 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
The greatest musical film of the Seventies, winner of 8 Academy Awards...
Nazi_Fighter_David28 September 2002
Warning: Spoilers
'Cabaret' is a dazzling combination of music, drama, and social commentary...

'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...
37 out of 53 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
A welcome surprise
stiv-710 March 2003
In my time on this planet, I have passed this film by at least a hundred times, curious, but not enough to warrant seeing it. Well, this weekend curiosity got the better of me and I finally broke down and saw it. I was pleased to find a very tightly constructed piece of musical drama, in which the drama and the musical elements are separate yet interconnected.

A story ostensibly about the end of decadence in Germany and the simultaneous rise of the Nazi party, "Cabaret" winds up being much more. Unlike "Titanic"(1997), which also intermingled historical events with a love story, "Cabaret" uses the cabaret as a device to comment on the goings-on in the story surrounding it, yet doesn't feel tacked on or phony like the former film. Part of this is because of the wonderful performances all around, and part is the sheer craftsmanship involved in putting the film together. Liza Minnelli and Michael York make us actually care about their characters, and Joel Grey brings a creepy verisimilitude to the Master of Ceremonies. Marisa Berenson, Fritz Wepper, and Helmut Griem put in fine supporting performances, lending dimension to what could have easily been cardboard characters.

The craftsmanship of Geoffrey Unsworth and Bob Fosse is no less impressive. I was familiar with Unsworth's work from "Superman: The Movie" and was amazed with his ability to make Liza look so breathtaking here. Fosse's direction and staging of the dance numbers is classic Fosse, even if the film had to be tightened up by the studio prior to release. This is great entertainment, with food for thought, and the Kander & Ebb songs stay with you long after the film ends.

Come to think of it, so does the film itself. Well worth seeing, and the ending is very thought-provoking.
12 out of 15 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
More than just an excellent movie
Romwell6 September 2004
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.
40 out of 61 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Divine Decadence
Galina_movie_fan21 February 2009
I just finished re-watching Cabaret and it is even better than I remembered it. It is a dazzling ball at the Satan, the Feast during the time of plague. It is an unforgettable film, made by the master, the screen version of his own stage masterwork. It is dark, prophetic capture of "divine decadence" that paved the road to the most horrifying hell of unspeakable catastrophe that the world had not seen before. Bob Fosse proved in his only second directed film how talented he was in everything he was doing. Shot entirely on the location in Berlin with the Kit Kat Club cabaret of the title as a real centerpiece of the movie, "Cabaret" is a marvel of directing, editing, color settings, that in combination with brilliantly clever and catchy songs, creates the doomed ambiguous atmosphere of uncertainty, hanging onto the present moment, and not daring to imagine to whom tomorrow belongs and what tomorrow will bring. It is impossible to talk about Cabaret and not to mention the international cast of the young talented actors who played the characters of their own nationality. Two definite stars of the film are without doubt Liza Minnelli as Sally Bowles and Joel Grey as creepy devilish MC. For me, the film belongs to Liza Minnelli who gave performance of such energy, charisma, and exuberance, that it has become Liza's calling card and, her claim to cinematic immortality. Under her rather intimidating makeup - her eyes that took up the good half of her face, the eyelashes so long that they can reach the opposite wall of the room, the impossible garish colors of her eyelids that probably glow in darkness unmistakably announcing her presence and colored in dark green finger nails that can be considered the dangerous weapon, Sally is vulgar but vulnerable, corrupted but lovable, oblivious but lonely, talented but stuck in the cabaret Kit Kat Club where the music never stops and life is always beautiful ...

In 1973, Cabaret competed for the Best Picture of the Year award with number one of 250 Best Movies as per IMDb users, Francis Coppola's Godfather. Not only it was the equal contender, it won 8 of ten Oscars it was nominated for, including Best Director for Bob Fosse, Best Actress for Liza Minnelli, Best Supporting Actor for Joel Grey (who was against three heavy weights from Godfather - Al Pacino, James Caan and Robert Duvall), and Best Art Direction-Set Decoration and Cinematography. With all my love for Godfather, I believe Cabaret deserved all its awards, and as time goes it proves to be one of the best screen musicals ever made.
16 out of 22 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
An eerie, glowing tinderbox full of grinning souls and desperate laughter...
moonspinner554 December 2005
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 ****
37 out of 58 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
The best musical & one of the best films ever made
Guy3313411 July 2000
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.
40 out of 65 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Forty-five years later Cabaret remains the musical to beat.
st-shot8 February 2018
Since it release nearly a half century back Cabaret remains the last great American musical (Singing' in the Rain and West Side Story were made previous). As relevant now as it was then, carrying a tune and warning of creeping fascism, it's staying power is not only in its message but the bite of the music and two of the most memorable musical performances in film history with Liza Minelli as Sally Bowles and Joel Grey as the "Emcee."

University student Brian Roberts ( Michael York) freshly arrived in Berlin (Weimar Germany 1931) to complete his studies makes the acquaintance of Kit Kat Club performer Sally Bowles who shows him the ropes. Taken back by her brash personality at first he eventually warms to Sally and they become involved, he more serious than her. Together they encounter and share new friends but Brian comes to the realization that Sally is not about to give up a life of "divine decadence." Meanwhile in the streets, the parks, the clubs the Nazi Party and its brand of thuggery is becoming more prevalent.

Outside of a pace slowing subplot regarding two older students Robert is tutoring Cabaret is flawless film making in nearly every area with Minelli excelling in three (acting, singing, dancing) requirements and Grey's mischievously haunting master of ceremonies delivering a character for the ages. Director Bob Fosse working in a confined space smaller than a broadway stage for his musical numbers, the color muted by club smoke, delivers one excellently edited solid number after the next without betraying the mood with slick, flashy choreography on a stage the size of an aircraft carrier that lesser musicals depend on. Instead it maintains the funk of people dancing on a volcano in search of distraction from the impending doom they face. Musicals by nature are usually optimistic and upbeat. Sober Cabaret goes against the grain and succeeds beyond expectation as one of the finest musicals in film history.
6 out of 7 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Great tale about reality and illusion
Vincentiu21 January 2007
A film with a single character: The Master of Ceremonies. An ambiguous spell and walls of illusion. Subtle exploration of chimera and fall of an era. A special inebriation and columns of words, songs, dreams, love, lies, freedom and hypocrisy like shield against terrible future. Nothing real, nothing splendid or ugly. Only the believe in miracle and in art to build another tomorrow. Joel Grey- in a magnificent role- is the almighty puppeteer. Master of show, maker of sins, lenient, sarcastic, cruel, brutal, ambiguous, a vulnerable androgynous god, he is the incarnation of Old Greek anenke. So, the film, cobweb of lights, smiles, dances and promises, good intentions and fear, is not pledge for classical "Life is theater play" or "Life is dream" but for the painful "Life is only refined lie". Natalia Landauer and his husband,the charming Sally Bowles,the wistful innocent Brian Roberts, are victims of same illusion who can be skin of reality.

Beautiful film. Gorgeous music. Great acting.
6 out of 7 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
A Perfect Film About One of History's Darkest Hours
evanston_dad21 May 2007
Bob Fosse's most accomplished film is one of the most accomplished films ever made, period.

Fosse understood that the days of the old-fashioned Hollywood musical were over, at least as of 1972, so he gave audiences a musical that doesn't feel like a musical. Based on Christopher Isherwood's fine collection of novellas, "Goodbye Berlin," and the subsequent stage musical based on them, "Cabaret" takes elements of both sources to create something completely unique. It tells the story of Brian Roberts (Michael York), a British professor who travels to 1931 Berlin to give English lessons to a wealthy heiress of a German Jewish family. He meets the irrepressible Sally Bowles (Liza Minelli, in a dynamite performance), an American and fellow lodger in his boarding house, and the two begin a madcap friendship and sort-of romance, eventually falling in with a wealthy German baron until they all fall out with one another. Meanwhile, revellers come to the Kit Kat Klub, the cabaret where Sally performs, to join the sinister Master of Ceremonies (Joel Grey, recreating his Broadway performance) in laughing away the dark cloud of Nazism building on the German horizon.

Fosse sharpened his directorial teeth on "Sweet Charity" three years earlier, and while I greatly admire that film, I can admit how uneven it is as a movie. "Cabaret" proves Fosse to be a master behind the camera, with a directorial style as unique and instantly recognizable as his choreography. The Kit Kat Klub and its devilish M.C. provide stylized commentary on the world rotting away outside the cabaret's decadent interior; the musical numbers don't advance the plot as much as comment on it. Fosse's way of filming musical numbers is fascinating, using quick edits to capture movement from multiple angles almost simultaneously. But what gives "Cabaret" its shattering power is the way it depicts the Nazi movement's insidious rise to power even as people were dismissing it as a joke. For all of the film's stylized panache, it provides one of the most realistic documents I've ever seen of just how the Nazis positioned themselves to dominate Germany. It's no coincidence that the film's most disturbing moment comes not in the nightmare, feverish world of the cabaret's stage, but rather in the realistically depicted world of a German beer garden, where the angelic voice of a Nazi youth raised in song becomes a rallying cry and call to arms for the German people.

The acting is phenomenal. Liza Minelli gives easily the best performance of her career and one of the best performances in the history of cinema. Joel Grey creates a character who manages to be no one and everyone at the same time. One can't imagine this vampirish imp of a man existing outside of the dark, lurid walls of the cabaret. And Michael York does terrific work as well, even if his role isn't as showy.

I think "Cabaret" has been underrated because people have labeled it as a musical, and musicals never get taken as seriously as other genres. But I would caution anyone against dismissing this film on those grounds. Yes, there is music in it, but what "Cabaret" is more than anything else is a haunting warning about the dangers in any time and place of ignoring the unpleasantness of the present and near future for the hedonistic pleasures of the moment.

Grade: A+
12 out of 18 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Perhaps the Greatest of All Broadway Musical Adaptations
l_rawjalaurence29 July 2013
First released with the tagline "A Divinely Decadent Experience" - Bob Fosse's film retains its power to shock forty years after its original release. Beautifully filmed, with a brilliant use of intercuts between the musical songs and scenes of sickening violence in the Berlin of the early 1930s, the film provides an object-lesson in how a musical in film should work, with the songs commenting on as well as advancing the plot. Liza Minnelli is quite simply the definitive Sally Bowles, combining boundless self-confidence with an innate vulnerability. She shows a mastery of tone and shade in her rendition of some of the tunes - in the title song, for instance, she recalls her mother at her best, whereas in the song "Maybe This Time," she reveals the character's inner yearning for a better life. Likewise Joel Grey is definitive as the Emcee - a vicious parodist who knows precisely what the songs mean in terms of satirizing Germany at the beginning of Nazi rule. Michael York's "Brian Roberts" (actually Christopher Isherwood) is both bemused yet appalled at what happens around him; he can never become actively involved either in the anti-Nazi movement or the decadent world of the Kit-Kat Club due to his respectable upbringing. He can escape from Nazi Germany; sadly neither Sally nor the Emcee have that privilege. This is the film's principal tragedy.
8 out of 11 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Affected and directionless
BrandtSponseller20 May 2005
It's not that I dislike musicals. Maybe it's that I don't quite "get" this film. But Cabaret only very rarely worked for me. In a nutshell (I'll flesh all of this out more below), I'm not sure I got the point of setting the film in Berlin during the transition from Weimar to Nazi Germany. I didn't really like the music or the cabaret performances. Very little of the soap opera stuff had any impact on me. I strongly disliked Liza Minnelli and only occasionally liked Michael York. And the direction, cinematography, and most of the technical elements did very little for me. There were a couple things I did enjoy (one not so minor), but you'll have to read on to discover what they were (I need to create _some_ suspense here).

Cabaret is the story of Sally Bowles (Minnelli) and Brian Roberts (York). Bowles is living in Berlin in 1931, singing and dancing in a cabaret called the Kit Kat Klub. During the opening, we see Roberts just arriving in town. He ends up at the boarding house where Bowles is living, hoping to acquire a room. He's taking a working vacation from graduate school in England. He plans on earning his room and board by teaching English to Germans.

Roberts and Bowles' relationship evolves over the course of the film--that's the gist of the plot. Roberts also makes two friends among his students, Fritz Wendel (Fritz Wepper) and the very rich Natalia Landauer (Marisa Berenson), and Bowles meets the even richer Maximilian von Heune (Helmut Griem) at the dry cleaners. All of this is interspersed with occasional cabaret performances (only very seldomly featuring Minnelli) and even less occasional references to the rise of the Nazi party. The bulk of the film is soap-operatic relationships among the characters.

Cabaret had a somewhat circuitous trip to the silver screen, starting with the semi-autobiographical fiction of Christopher Isherwood, who lived in Berlin between 1929 and 1933. After Isherwood, the material was transformed into a play and then a film both entitled I Am a Camera (1955). Finally, it became the Broadway show, and after that, this film version, for which director and famed choreographer Bob Fosse wanted to look back to Isherwood's writing. I haven't read Isherwood's work yet, but from what I understand, it has more of an essay-like tonality, and attempts to capture life in the relatively "decadent" Berlin of the 1930s in detail.

Unfortunately, the end result is that this film version of Cabaret plays like a directionless pastiche of mostly mundane events. The goal seems to be an in-depth portrait of a troubled woman in a troubled-environment, and conjointly maybe a commentary on contributing factors that led to the imbalanced state of both. But what Fosse achieved instead was a random-feeling, poorly acted hodgepodge of soap-operatic nonsense.

Minnelli's performance is so loaded with annoying affectations, and she so frequently overacts--not to mention that she's very disturbing to look at--that it kills what little dramatic impact the pithier developments should have. York vacillates between confusion, woodenness and overacting, occasionally finding a balanced middle ground that's enjoyable, but it's like waiting for a slow-moving pendulum to reach its nadir.

The Nazi material, including the two all-too-brief instances of society embracing some of the attitudes or ideas, could have been very strong and poignant--especially in contrast to the freewheeling life depicted elsewhere. But Fosse makes no kind of commitment to it, so it ends up feeling like it was added on as an afterthought, like scotch-taping a paper lapel to an otherwise complete cashmere coat.

Fritz and Natalia, the two characters that I did enjoy and who had a compelling story that was intimately bound up with rising Nazism, were largely ignored. Fosse spends maybe 10 minutes on them.

The music and choreography for the cabaret performances lies somewhere between banal and unpleasantly corny. It has a kind of vaudeville "shake your derriere to the cowbell" hamminess, while the choreography involves a lot of mugging--again those annoying affectations--that saps all of the potential effectiveness out of the art direction. Maybe that music was popular in these kinds of German clubs in the 1930s, but would some melodic, harmonic and rhythmic inventiveness--not to mention some finer artistry in the lyrics--have killed Fosse and his composers? It can't be that John Kander and Fred Ebb were unfamiliar with Kurt Weill, for instance.

Besides, for the other element I really liked--the art direction and production design--Fosse went out of his way to give us something intriguingly surreal. The look of the film, especially the cabaret scenes, including the garishly painted faces and bizarre costumes and overall appearance of the performers, is based on the visual art of George Grosz and Otto Dix--even going so far as recreating characters from Dix paintings down to small details. I'm a huge Dix fan, so I enjoyed this aspect of the film. But I wanted this aesthetic to be followed in other areas, too, rather than the very pedestrian and unsurprising route that was taken.

(By the way, I know that my score of 6 may seem high given my review, but remember that a 6 is equivalent to a "D" in my way of looking at ratings. There were at least two elements I liked--with the art direction/production design being very important to the film, and I rate on all artistic and technical elements. The film has passable cinematography, lighting, sound, etc., even if they weren't anything special to me.)
34 out of 63 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Musical Milestone
bilahn10 August 1998
I have probably seen this movie 25 times; needless to say it is one of my favorites. Bob Fosse's trademark cinematography and choreography, along with Liza Minnelli's one-of-a kind persona give this movie a unique appeal. The combination of pure entertainment enveloping a very serious message and story make "Cabaret" one of the highlights of 70's films.
10 out of 15 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Shallow Story, Nice Musical Show
claudio_carvalho14 April 2014
In 1931, in Berlin, the English professor from Cambridge Brian Roberts (Michael York) comes to the boarding house where the promiscuous American performer and singer of the Cabaret Kit-Kat Club Sally Bowles (Liza Minnelli) lives. They befriend each other and soon Sally discovers that Brian is not attracted by women, but they have a love affair. When Sally meets the wealthy Baron Maximilian von Heune (Helmut Griem), both Sally and Brian are seduced by the baron. Meanwhile there is the ascension of the Nazi Party.

"Cabaret" is a movie too long with a shallow story, but nice musical show. Joel Grey steals the movie in the role of the Master of Ceremonies. But the background of Berlin in 1931 is awfully superficial and Bob Fosse is not brave enough to show the relationship among Sally, Brian and Max. My vote is seven.

Title (Brazil): "Cabaret"
13 out of 21 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
One Of The All Time Great Film Musicals
mpofarrell3 March 2003
When director and choreographer Bob Fosse decided to adapt the critically acclaimed Broadway musical CABARET to the screen he took on a daunting challenge. The 1966 hit, a song-filled version of John Van Druten's 1952 play I AM A CAMERA, itself an adaptation of British novelist Christopher Isherwood's BERLIN STORIES, CABARET incorporated both the traditional conventions of the American Musical Theater (boy meets girl , love songs sung by the main protagonists) coupled with the more daring plot device of a ghoulishly painted Master of Ceremonies who comments on the main story's proceedings through song and dance. The musical eerily evoked the decadent, devil-may-care atmosphere of Berlin in the early 30's and the apathy of the citizenry to the encroaching Nazi takeover. As with classic Rodgers and Hammerstein shows of the past, CABARET included a romantic subplot (this time involving an older couple, A German landlady and her Jewish tenant) that strongly tied in with the book's stance against prejudice. But composer John Kander and lyricist Fred Ebb went much further than Rodgers and Hammerstein in conveying man's inhumanity to man : the nature of Evil permeated the entire atmosphere of CABARET. Albeit entertaining,even exhilarating, the new musical never lost sight of the forces that would lead pre-World War 2 Germany to the brink of social and political disaster. In the process of transferring CABARET from stage to screen, Fosse and screenwriter Jay Presson Allen scrapped much of Joe Masteroff's Broadway script and went back to the original source, Isherwood's stories, creating a more intricate storyline and eliminating certain subplots while adding new ones. The German landlady became a mere walk-on role, the older Jewish suitor was gone. The young British writer Cliff, straight in the Broadway production, became sexually ambiguous Brian in the film . British Sally Bowles, the singer in the notorious Kit Kat Club Cabaret, was now an American played by Liza Minnelli. Into this mix was included a wealthy Jewish heiress involved in a doomed romance ; and a menage a taros involving Brian, Sally and a seductive German Baron. This indeed was going to be the most adult rendition of The Berlin Stories depicted in any medium. As the Master of Ceremonies, the androgynous one-man Greek Chorus who introduces the acts at The Kit Kat Club, the producers retained the protean talents of Joel Grey, repeating his Tony Award winning stage performance. Under the meticulous direction of Bob Fosse and abetted by master technicians Goeffrey Unsworth (cinematographer), David Bretherton (film editor), CABARET emerged as a daring , stupendous piece of work. The opening scene introduces Joel Grey, the sycophantic emcee, introducing the audience to the denizens of the seedy cabaret. Throughout the film these musical sequences at the Club are artfully interspersed with domestic scenes between Brian and Sally at Fraulein Schneider's rooming house and other Berlin locations. Simply put, the movie walks a brilliant tightrope act , juxtaposing the cabaret numbers with everyday life outside its parameters. In a brilliant masterstroke, songwriters Kander and Ebb confine the music only to the cabaret numbers, dropping all of the song score sung by the principals (the eliminated songs do make an appearance however, as background music on Sally's phonograph and in public settings!) What impresses one most now about CABARET in the thirty -odd years since its release, aside from its technical triumphs, is the great ensemble acting of its cast. Liza Minnelli's star wattage never shone more brightly than it did in this film. Although turning Sally into an American slightly skews the story, Minnelli is so strong in the part that it hardly matters. Not a subtle actress, her animated delivery is shown to great advantage here , hiding a more exposed creature underneath. In scenes where Minnelli shows her vulnerability, she is deeply affecting. There's a repeat of her memorable Pookie from THE STERILE CUCKOO here, coupled with her dynamic, no-holds-barred stage performances at the cabaret . One of the inherent weaknesses of the film is Sally's desperate longing to be a star, a major film actress. She desperately desires fame but is portrayed in the rooming house scenes as a young woman with only mediocre talent who needs constant reassurance. That idea is totally obliterated when Minnelli takes the stage. She holds both the cabaret and movie audience hostage with her incredible talent, culminating in two unforgettable numbers, the gorgeous torch song "Maybe This Time" and of course "Cabaret". At the peak of both her physical and vocal powers, Liza Minnelli gave a performance that rightfully earned her the Best Actress Oscar that year. In recreating his stage role for the screen, Joel Grey again demonstrated his brilliant gift of tying all the elements of the story together. With his decadent air, slicked back ebony hair, painted face and rouged lips, he comes across like a living, rotting corpse. It is a chilling sight. Equally impressive is Michael York as Isherwood's alter ego, the young novelist who fatefully becomes involved with poor unstable Sally. Marisa Berenson , Helmut Griem and Fritz Wepper round out a superb cast. CABARET has lost none of its glow over the years ; in fact it looks better than ever. It also has the distinction of stealing some of the thunder from one of the greatest American films ever made. At the March 23rd, 1973 Academy Award ceremony, THE GODFATHER won three Oscars, including the much coveted Best Picture Prize.. But CABARET ran off with eight Oscars, including Best Director for Fosse and Supporting Actor for Grey. It also won nearly every technical award in sight. That this landmark musical film shared highest honors with Francis Coppola's masterpiece only adds to the movie's luster. CABARET is a classic for all time.
15 out of 26 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
An error has occured. Please try again.

See also

Awards | FAQ | User Ratings | External Reviews | Metacritic Reviews

Recently Viewed