Starring: Roy Scheider, Leland Palmer (her final film), Ann Reinking, Jessica Lange, Erzsebet Foldi (her only film), Cliff Gorman, John Lithgow
Director: Bob Fosse
Summary: Bob Fosse tells his own life story as he details the sordid life of Joe Gideon, a womanizing, drug-using dancer
Other Nominations: Director, Actor (Scheider), Original Screenplay, Song Score*, Art Direction*, Cinematography, Costume Design*, Film Editing*
Bob Fosse changed the movie musical with Cabaret by giving it a dose of reality that most usually lacked, and he ends up going even further with his highly-autobiographical All That Jazz that ultimately is his crowning achievement as a filmmaker. Roy Scheider gives a career performance as our Bob Fosse expy, tapping into something that I didn’t know existed from watching him in Jaws or The French Connection, never shying away from the character’s darker aspects (his womanizing, lack of care about himself or others) while somehow never becoming too unlikeable so that we lose investment with the character. This is an excellent, bold screenplay that takes tons of risks-mainly the frequent cuts to the internal thoughts of the main character that are done either as conversations between him and the angel of death (Lange), or as musical numbers-that end up working really well. It also is incredibly introspective, and details Fosse’s inability to have a meaningful relationship with his lovers or his daughter, him trying to prove his masculinity in a very gay business, his self-doubting, and how he’s slowly killing himself with drugs, cigarettes, alcohol and an insane schedule, an finally being simultaneously being obsessed with and trying to ignore his own mortality.
The editing is a strong point-among other things, the editing of his morning routine that we see a number of times in the movie is great, and the jarring last cut in the entire movie is perfect. Ironically however, the one thing that was a weaker link in the movie were the scenes involving the editing of “The Stand-up” (Lenny) which were far less interesting than seeing him stage a new show (which is this bizarre sex-airlines musical) or battling his personal issues.
Overall: Bob Fosse’s best work and probably my favorite musical from this project. It’s bold, introspective and Scheider’s lead performance is excellent.