Saturday, 15 August 2009


1972 - Dir.: Bob Fosse

Shown at The FeckenOdeon on April 2nd, 2005

Much was made at the time of this film's release about the fact that it was the first musical to receive the dubious honour of an X certificate. It is perhaps predictable that the popular press should get in a lather about a few strong words and lewd(ish) moments while ignoring the real and gut wrenching feeling of outrage provoked by the vivid and stark portrayal of the rise of the greatest obscenity of the 20th Century. Those of us who saw "Cabaret" back in the free wheeling seventies were brought up sharp by the awful realisation that the rise of the Nazis was all but unstoppable and that ordinary people had no way of intervening. As our own political system lurched to the right and skinheads took to the streets, those of us with vivid imaginations drew worrying parallels.... Whatever our personal political feelings, no-one could fail to be shocked by "Cabaret" - but sex had absolutely nothing to do with it.
The film is based on Christopher Isherwood's autobiographical book of anecdotes from the era, `Goodbye to Berlin'. The Sally Bowles character appeared in those stories and then appeared in the play and movie 'I Am a Camera' before returning to the stage in this musical, and then making it into the movies a second time...
That such a tale set in such a time can also give great joy is a tribute to it's Director and it's superb and spirited cast. It can be said to have been a "once in a lifetime" film for almost all the main participants. Although Bob Fosse made a couple more films (including the autobiographical "All that Jazz") and worked extensively on the Broadway stage he never again hit such a high as "Cabaret". He died before he could transfer his stage hit "Chicago" to the big screen. Lisa Minelli, who really made us believe that she was the reincarnation of her mother (Judy Garland), failed to keep up the momentum and bounced from one indifferent project to the next mediocre one. Joel Grey (Master of Ceremonies) who is perhaps the kingpin of "Cabaret" was really too good at the part - he was reckoned to be "difficult to cast" by Hollywood's money men who obviously could only see him in white face and tails (that's him in the picture). He's still working on US television. Helmutt Griem worked only in his native language after "Cabaret" (he died last year) and Marisa Berenson also stayed firmly in Europe - though she's soon to be seen in a film called "Colour me Kubrick". The exception is of course Michael York who has so far appeared in 111 feature films and is still working - "Cabaret" is his 14th movie role.
"Tomorrow Belongs to Me" was written by John Kander and Fred Ebb in the style of a traditional German song, sung by the Nazi youth in the movie, to stir tip patriotism for the "fatherland". It has often been mistaken for a genuine "Nazi anthem" and has led to the songwriters being accused of anti-Semitism. This would be most surprising, as they are, in fact, Jewish. It is also the only song sung outside of the cabaret setting to survive the transition from stage to film.

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