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
One of the most gleefully indulgent, self-loathing films ever made- yet watchable as a train wreck, thanks to its bravery, wit and overall excellence.
Scheider is unexpectedly effective as the director's mirror image, a talented louse who deserves what he gets. I can only imagine the smirk that must have been on Fosse's face throughout this production. He doesn't ask for forgiveness, he doesn't try to justify Gideon's behavior, and he certainly didn't encourage Scheider to be sympathetic. "You're right, I'm a bastard," he seems to be saying.
While catchy and professional, the musical numbers (particularly the art direction and costumes) range from tasteless to bombastic- as they were intended, I think. The choreography is precise, the editing masterful, and the performances in sharp focus. These elements, plus the acerbically mournful script, make for a fascinating deconstruction of self to an extent rarely, if ever, seen in the movies.
Not every artist should think himself so interesting, but thankfully, both Fosse's professional and personal life merited such honest examination. I can't think of any of our more iconic filmmakers today who have been turned the camera back on themselves in such unflinching fashion.
Note: Among the direct parallels to Fosse's actual career are "The Stand-Up" to "Lenny", and Lithgow's snooty Lucas Sergeant to theatre's estimable Harold Prince.
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