All That Jazz
The line between genius and madness is often thin, often exceeded. This was the case for the late Bob Fosse, was a man of exceptional talents and an even larger collection of vices. Director, choreographer, writer, womanizer, drug addict and alcoholic, this man embraced all that life had without any concern for restraint. Made eight years before his death ‘All That Jazz’ is a self-indulgent man’s look back at his life. Unlike many autobiographical works this one show its creator in the best of life. Fosse’s screen alter ego Joe Gideon (Roy Scheider) is running out of time with so much yet to do. He has ruined his marriage to Audrey (Leland Palmer), practically ignores his daughter (Erzsebet Foldi), cheats on his girlfriend Kate (Ann Reinking) all while being the choreographer for his ex-wife’s Broadway show and directing a film centered around a stand-up comic. Throughout the film there is a running dialogue between Joe and Angelique (Jessica Lange), the always flirtatious, specter forces Joe to face painful truths and revelations he would much rather leave buried deep in the recesses of forgotten memories. Angelique is not a typical girl of the week or Miss Right Now for Joe; she is the angel of death. While Joe easily lies to almost everyone he is forced to face an unaccustomed brutally honest with Angelique. She seems to relish her ability to Joe, taunt Joe, perhaps to finding sport in engaging this mortal who always faced life on his own terms, now that the run of the show that was his life is about to close.
Joe, aka Fosse, was a man driven of passion, compelled to become completely immersed in what ever happened to spark his imagination at that moment. This ability to completely collapse is attention to a single point, the two sides of the same coin. It made him an unparalleled genius in his field, but left them so self-absorbed that he was unable to retain a meaningful relationship with anyone for a significant period of time. Ultimately Joe’s passion, made him a lot like a giant star; burning hot, living fast and destined to end in a spectacular supernova. It seems as though Angelique is anticipating being able to witness the spectacular end.
Despite the fact that the divorce was rather messy and all but ignores their daughter, or degree does admire and respect is undeniable talent. As such, she is willing to entrust him with the direction and choreography of her play. However, refuses to subjugate his artistic vision for anyone. He Turns his wife’s production from a child-like musical into one of the most steamy, erotic dance numbers every presented on screen. The trademark lithe, almost animalistic dance movements will have most running a cold shower, despite the fact that the Internet has made far more explicit scenes commonplace. Fosse through his cinematic avatar Joe reveals his trademark ability to differentiate between sex and sensuality. The lead dancer, Sandahl Bergman movies with the precision and grace that goes beyond the feline, you are transported beyond watching a beautiful naked woman undulating around the stage and him mesmerized by the precision of her dance moves and how they echo through the rest of the cast. The actress, Ms. Bergman, was well able to use this extraordinary body control in a different type of choreography; the fight scenes opposite on the Schwarzenegger in the 1982, ‘Conan the Barbarian’. A scene like this so epitomizes the distinctive style of Bob Fosse that you will easily be able to pick out elements of it in any production. He provided his talents to.
This film is far from perfect but then again that fits with the man whose
life is presented. In a reflection of Fosse’s life the film mixes drama, comedy
and dance as it strives to be more than the wonderful thing it already is. There
is energy to this film among the tedious repetitions of rehearsals. I suppose
this in itself reflects Fosse’s life, the frustration that comes from a
personality that demands perfection from himself and all those around him and a
man pushing life both emotionally and with some chemical assistance. The dance
numbers here are classic Fosse, the use of hands and shoulders, the constant
undercurrent of the erotic and sensual bubbles up with every movement. People do
care about him, especially his ex-wife, but he is emotionally too devoted to
himself to reciprocate any feelings. Still the film draws you in; it surrounds
you almost against your will. After all, why should you care about the life of
this selfless man? Yet, as the film progresses you do care. You want to see what
happens next. All That Jazz is as complex as the man it portrays.
Audio commentary featuring editor Alan Heim
Posted 09/12/03 08/25/2014