No 367 - Cabaret
Director - Bob Fosse
Last year an invitation fluttered electronically onto my doormat. My Facebook doormat. It was an invitation for the New Sheridan Club's Christmas party and the theme was painfully precise. Weimar Berlin it shouted out. I was confused, I contacted outside help. "Oh!" came the exasperated sigh of a reply "Just watch Cabaret".
So a year later I did.
The film follows two friends/lovers as the parade through the decadence of Weimar Berlin and their scrapes and escapades throughout. What I like about this film is that the majority of the film is as flippant and as flighty as that sentence. Then it changes, after all... you can't have 1920's and 1930's Berlin without having a bit of a Nazi rise to power.
But before we speak of such things, let us look at the magic of the titular Cabaret.
The most important name to mention is Fosse. Him of the jazz dance wizardry. As we enter the world of the Cabaret, we are hit by Fosse's choreography with a full and enormous force. Scantily clad women thrust and dance and whirl, the camera is lost with flashes of colour and sequins and fish net tights. It is a gloriously dizzying experience which Moulin Rouge! also tries to emulate, and which I live in perpetual hope will be emulated every time I go to a burlesque.
That is the other reason why I love the scenes in the Cabaret. I'm a sucker for a bit of Burlesque.
As well as the scantily clad women, we are introduced to one of the finest characters in this little ensemble. The over made up, over camp, over fabulous Master of Ceremonies, played by the wonderful Joel Grey. His ridiculous accent matches his flitting through languages. He is a joy to watch and he appears in almost all of the musical numbers.
Just watch the song 'Money makes the world go round'. This song not only shows why I like the MC so much, but also why I like the film as a whole. Sublimely ridiculous with quite base humour, slinky dancing, fantastic clothing. It is just too much for a wannabe dandy like myself.
I have begun to talk about songs, for yes this is a musical (in case you didn't know) - but unlike traditional musicals, it has a well thought out structure. For all the songs are performed in the Cabaret itself, and are therefore neither illogical or necessary. If you really truly utterly hate songs in films, you can skip them and not miss anything.
The only song not performed in the Cabaret is 'Tomorrow Belongs to Me' which is such a gloriously chilling number, and such a clever way of showing the influence and power of the Nazi party. It is quite a difficult piece to watch. Watch it in all its wholesome aerian creepiness..
For whilst this is a love story between Sally (Liza Minnelli - I'll talk about her later) and Brian (Michael York, or as I like to call him... Basil Exposition) it is also a story about the dangers of the Nazi party. As Brian knows when he tries to fight them in the streets and ends up a broken man.
So intercut amongst the decadence and the cavorting and the champagne are moments of chilling brutality and beginnings of the prejudice and hatred towards Jews. There is a whole subplot about the romantic difficulties of a Jewish couple. I loved that couple because they met at an English lesson and despite both being German only speak to each other in very formal broken English, it is cute.
Throughout the story, these little Nazi moments leave a bitter taste in the viewer's mouth and the final scene seems quite potent to. In it, we emulate the first scene, with the MC's introduction to the cabaret and a pan across the audience, through distorted glass, so that the audience are all unfocused. Only this time, in the centre of the picture and totally in focus rests a swastika.
....If I had any journalistic sense I would have edited this blog better. That is the kind of edgy sentence you want to FINISH on... but I still have a little bit to say on Miss Liza Minnelli and her character Sally.
Mainly, I found Sally very annoying. I didn't like the way that she is constantly fishing for compliments. I didn't like the way that she says things solely to be seen as shocking or scandalous. I don't like the way she ALWAYS has to be the centre of attention and sulks when she isn't.
However all of that is forgiven when she dances.
Because she is one HELL of a performer on that there cabaret stage.