The Fractured Mirror entry: All That Jazz (1979)
8 days ago
– Fri, Nov 24, 2023 at 11:20:18 AM
Fun fact: this isn't streaming anywhere. You need to buy it on Criterion. Thankfully it's totally worth buying on DVD.
All That Jazz (1979) FM
Like a surprising number of filmmakers, Bob Fosse chose to create his own version of 8 1/2 despite the considerable disadvantage of not being Federico Fellini with 1979’s uncomfortably personal and intense All That Jazz. The dancer turned choreographer turned theatrical director turned filmmaker had the ambition and audacity to try to out-Fellini Fellini in terms of surrealistic, carnivalesque spectacle and raw sexuality. Unique among the wannabes, Fosse had the brilliance, drive and imagination to succeed.
All That Jazz is a rapturous song of self inspired by a particularly fraught period in its creator’s life when he was deep into post-production on Lenny while whipping Chicago into shape for a Broadway run. That’s a workload that would challenge the strongest, healthiest and most disciplined artist but Joe Gideon (Roy Scheider), the Fosse surrogate at the film’s core, is almost impressively unhealthy, compulsive and lacking in discipline.
Decades of hard drinking, heavy smoking, amphetamine abuse, overwork, womanizing and diligently avoiding anything that might resemble self-care have taken a toll on the charismatic anti-hero.
As the film progresses and Joe comes increasingly close to catching up with the death he has seemingly been chasing all his adult life the always slippery lines between reality and fantasy and art and life begin to disappear.
Scheider is haunted by death in the ethereal, inviting form of Jessica Lange as a comely angel of doom who flirts outrageously with the sex addict as he looks back at his life and contemplates death.
There is a glorious synchronicity in All That Jazz winning the Academy Award for Best Editing because All That Jazz is about editing in more ways than one. Fosse and editor Alan Heim, who also edited Lenny and has a cameo in the film as an editor, give the proceedings a lively staccato musicality, a brash rhythm all its own. It is a bravura exercise in cutting that makes full use of all of the tools of film, particularly in terms of editing.
All That Jazz is a movie about death positively roaring with life. It’s about a genius whose life was a mess and a masterpiece, a tragedy and a triumph. It maintains a mood of transcendent exhaustion from the first frame to the last but is paradoxically overflowing with energy, ideas and momentum.