director Bob Fosse
I’ve meant to see Bob Fosse’s Cabaret for years.
It’s a remarkable film, remarkable perhaps in that it is an American Hollywood musical that feels much more European in its sensibility. It’s a film set in the Weimar Republic, a wonderful, fragile timeframe in history and culture, a period of decadence and progressiveness that would be snuffed out by the Nazi regime prior to WWII, but whose culture and character would not be achieved again for decades (if ever). The film sets its story of bisexual love triangle amid this unique environment of acceptance and creativity in a world about to utterly clamp down to snuff it all out. And yet, as is so much the case, the film is much about its own time as well.
Liza Minnelli might these days be more of a pop cultural joke (she imposed herself on the Oscars just a few nights ago) but this film will forever demonstrate her unique attraction and vivid talents. I grew up with her in things like Arthur (1981) and The Muppets and more and I always liked her pretty well. But here she is a force of nature, a great character in Sally Bowles, the ex-pat singer, who imagines herself so much more sophisticated and worldly than she is, yet can knock out a tune with as much flare and style as her mother, Judy Garland. She’s great in the film.
The musical numbers are all quite excellent. Fosse modified the stage musical of Cabaret to set all the musical numbers (save one) on the stage in the film’s Kit Kat Klub Cabaret. Like a lot of innovations that become co-opted and turned into standard practices, it’s kind of easy to forget how innovative this film really was. I guess that is true about a lot of aspects of this film.
It was interesting seeing Liza Minnelli at the Oscars, joke or butt of jokes, celebrity out of context in our present time after having just seen her in her prime in perhaps her most important cinematic artifact, her most important role and film. It is a fleeting business, life. And films wind up becoming documents, documentary or not. An aspect of eternal timelessness as our present culture and reality has in its grasp, and for those truly great moments and films, all the better.