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Review: All That Jazz

There’s something a little perverse about a director who models his own ego trip completely after someone else’s movie.

All That Jazz
Photo: 20th Century Fox

There’s something a little perverse about a director who models his own ego trip completely after someone else’s movie. Such is the case with Bob Fosse’s 8 1/2, more popularly known as All That Jazz. In it, Fosse’s alter ego Joe Gideon (Roy Scheider) juggles simultaneous film and stage productions, as well as his broken home life, multiple affairs, and his own failing health (one of Jazz’s many parallels to real life is how it eerily predicted Fosse’s own death by heart attack). Gideon’s newest film, The Comedian (obviously a riff on Fosse’s own Lenny) has been in the editing suite for months past its original deadline. Meanwhile, he’s helming a vanity project for his ex-wife, to make amends of a sort. Neither project is passing his own ridiculously high standards of excellence and he plunges into a crisis in which he finds himself playing psychological case study with the Angel of Death (Jessica Lange). Fosse might owe a lot to Fellini’s plunge into self-obsession, but the pungent texture of showbiz grime and sweaty, thrusting body geometry are completely his own. In powerhouse numbers like “Take Off With Us” and the infamous “Bye-Bye Love” (easily the longest on-screen death rattle of all time), Fosse brings his own unique style of rhythmic, dance-like film editing that he initiated with Cabaret to its apotheosis. Never content to cut on a beat, instead he makes razor-sharp edits at the change of a dancer’s direction, or as an extension of his combination moves. In essence, he turns the art of the edit into its own form of choreography. All That Jazz may be Fosse’s finest cinematic achievement.

Cast: Roy Scheider, Ann Reinking, Leland Palmer, Jessica Lange, John Lithgow, Erzsebet Foldi, Michael Tolan, Max Wright, Ben Vereen, Cliff Gorman Director: Bob Fosse Screenwriter: Robert Alan Aurthur, Bob Fosse Distributor: 20th Century Fox Running Time: 123 min Rating: R Year: 1979 Buy: Video

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