Nov 13, 2010

Cabaret (1972) - divine decadence

directed by Bob Fosse / starring Liza Minnelli, Michael York, Helmut Griem, Joel Grey

Long time, no... films worth writing about. Or alternatively, no mood for writing a proper post. Anyhow, I watched Cabaret and there you go! A film worth writing about AND a mood for writing. And we're back in business.

Cabaret is set in the 1930's Berlin, which of course rings a bell for anyone who knows their history. As the Nazi party gradually keeps gaining ground, Sally Bowles, an American singer desperately dreaming of stardom, works in a cabaret club night after night, fooling around with potentially powerful and rich men and drinking booze with two hands. Then she falls in love with Brian, a man with big ears and even bigger heart. But can he tame her?

Liza Minnelli is phenomenol in this legendary role. Long before I saw the film, I recognized the look - the hair and the make-up and those craaaazy lashes. Michael York is sweet and likable as Brian, who gets the audience's symphathies for having to deal with the crazy whims of the sparky, wild Sally. Joel Grey is the Master of Ceremonies, stealing pretty much every scene he's in.

I always enjoy the clothes in movies like this. Those crazy cabaret costumes and all. Only that fur of Sally's was quite hideous, but that's just me... The songs were great and catchy. I even recognized one, called Maybe This Time. Thanks to Glee, of course! As much fun as the dance rutines were to watch, the greatest thing about them is how they adapted to the story, illustrating and emphasizing the most important turns of the plot. That one seemingly comedic number with the gorilla was particularly clever, the way it turned out to be a daring and explicit comment against the Nazi philosophy.

It was both interesting and chilling to watch how the Nazis kept hovering in the background. First they were thrown out off the club, but soon enough they led people to sing rousing anthems about the fatherland. The scene, where the clear-voiced young boy, 'the Nazi youth', sings Tomorrow Belongs to Me and the whole crowd - except for that one old man who clearly sees through that nonsense - joins him, gave me the chills and not in the usual good way.

What is quite unique about Cabaret is that the main characters are not really at all affected by the Nazi revolution. They pretty much just go on with their lives, which are messy enough without taking part in the mayhem growing ever stronger in their country, only struggling to choose between romance and the hope to be rich and famous. They have no idea, and often no interest, about the world-shattering events that are about to take place right behind their front doors. That is, above all, what made Cabaret so fascinating to me.

"Well, do you sleep with girls or don't you?"
"Sally! You don't ask questions like that!"
"I do."

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