Friday, January 1, 2010

1979 - ALL THAT JAZZ, Bob Fosse films his own death.

An amazing film, Bob Fosse literally filmed his own life story before he died about 7 years later and it ain't a pretty one. 

Roy Scheider plays a Broadway director and choreographer named Joe Gideon.  Scheider dresses like Fosse, acts like Fosse and even has Fosse's gotee to make it very clear that he is playing Bob Fosse.

Fosse co wrote the screenplay and the incidents from his film are clearly from his own life.  Gideon is attempting to direct and choreograph a new musical, while editing a film and simultaneously screwing any dancer he wants.  Add Gideon's chain smoking, drinking and pill popping and you get a portrait of an artist as a real dickhead.

Gideon is constantly told how great he is by everyone around him but he clearly doubts his own abilities.   He tries to rise above the mediocrity that surrounds him but he seems embarrassed about making his living directing something as shallow as musical comedies on Broadway.

Fosse really pours on the razzle dazzle technique in this film.  He uses flash forwards and jump cuts and has some some really outlandish staging at times.

Fosse apparently cast the film with a number of women he had affairs with including the dancer Ann Reinking basically playing herself and Jessica Lange as the "Angel of Death."  But Roy Scheider really comes through for him with his outstanding performance as Gideon.  Scheider was not an actor who you would cast to be the centerpiece of a  musical but he's so good he actually creates some sympathy for this asshole.

The film ends with an amazing insane 30 minute death scene.  Here Fosse really goes nuts with his Broadway showmanship stuff completely out of control.  He mixes a surreal blend of actual open heart surgery, fantasy death dance numbers and self congragulatory pats on the back about what a great artist he is as he lies dying in his hospital bed.

An impressive film about a real asshole.

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