Tuesday, January 31, 2012
My favorite Bob Fosse film is All That Jazz. Of all the choreographer's directorial efforts, All That Jazz is the one that I go back to the most. In 1979, Fosse's structure was already ushering in a new cinematic vision; a time when non-linear filmmaking wasn't the norm in mainstream movies.
And, on a personal level, at that time, I struggled to figure out why Fosse had chosen Roy Scheider, an actor defined by tough guy New York cop roles, to play the main character, Joe Gideon. Couldn't figure it out until I saw a photo of Fosse...
Subsequently, Scheider was perfect for the role of Gideon (who is Fosse's alter-ego), a womanizing, pill-popping, hyper-macho, choreographer/filmmaker who pretty much uses his position to seduce women. But the film is a confessional, with Gideon professing his sins (and guilt) to an angel (Jessica Lange) while he falters in that netherworld between life and death after experiencing a final (he's had a series of them) heart attack.
Gideon is overworked but driven, designing the choreography for - as well as directing - a new stage musical (that's probably destined for failure but based on innovation) and editing his latest film, which is about a stand-up comedian who's on the verge of total annihilation.
Its a bizarre and musically attuned excursion into a man's driven psyche that is wired to keep pushing beyond the fray. All That Jazz is about a man who loves what he does with an intense yet chaotic passion. Gideon embraces life to its extremes.
Fosse weaves a documentary style into All That Jazz, utilizing interview techniques while delving into a sort of first person expose. Its a style Fosse adopted for Lenny and his last film, Star 80.
Star 80, released in 1983, was about the murder of Dorothy Stratten, a Playboy Playmate who married the wrong guy - a destructive, intensly jealous psychopath named Paul Snider. While Mariel Hemingway captured the soft-spoken, indecisive but driven, Stratten - it was Eric Roberts' portrayal of Snider that makes the film so frightening and compelling.
Star 80 was photographed by Sven Nykvist, the director of photography who was best known for his work with Ingmar Bergman. Nykvist's eye in Star 80 captured the glossy, cocaine-fueled and decadent late 1970s (concluding in 1980), where bright color is eventually overtaken by the blackest shadows.
Sadly, Fosse died in 1987, having never directed another film after Star 80.