Cabaret (1972)

Cabaret (1972)
Dir. Bob Fosse
Starring: Liza Minelli, Michael York, Joel Grey
125 minutes
(Winner of eight Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress (Minelli) and Best Supporting Actor (Grey)

I was surprised to discover that this film beat out The Godfather. Is it a better film? No way. However, I think it’s a good film, definitely a good musical. (My personal enjoyment of the film is a 7, but the quality an 8. I gave the film the benefit of the doubt and rounded to 8.) Someone said that this is the best musical of the 70’s, which isn’t saying much, but they may be right.

There are two aspects that make this film worth watching, imo: the songs and the performances of them–the acting and chemistry between Liza Minelli and Michael York. The actual dramatic story line between the two characters they play could have been interesting as a drama and not a musical. Indeed, Fosse makes the film as a straight drama with musical interludes describing the characters, scenes or situations. He’s very effective, and this is another reason to see the film.

‘While watching the movie, I couldn’t help, but compare it to Chicago, another musical written by the same writers, including Bob Fosse. What makes Cabaret a better film are the songs and the performances. Maybe I didn’t care for the singing in Chicago, but the songs felt flat and didn’t really interest me. In Cabaret, the songs may not be great, but they’re performed well, and they’re more catchy, imo. To be fair, I was more familiar with the music of Cabaret, before seeing the film. That’s a big difference.

Still, none of the performances in Chicago come close to Joel Grey or Liza Minelli in this film. I particularly liked the way Grey and his scenes were used as separate commentary on the story. Many musicals blend in the musical numbers with the actual story, but in Cabaret, the musical numbers are performed in the night club and, for the most part, don’t involve the main characters. It is basically story that uses musical numbers as commentary on the action and the situation in 1931 Germany.

The political undertones didn’t really interest me much, but I was interested in the story of Sally Bowles (LIza Minelli) and Brian Roberts (Michael York). The two characters have instant chemistry. I totally believed they had a connection with each other. Liza Minelli is such a curious actor. She has the vocal quality, facial features and innocence of her famous mother, but she has her own quality, too. Maybe she’s a modern version of her mother. She’s interesting because she has a vitality and innocence. There’s something big about her spirit, but at the same time she seems to lack depth in her acting, too.

I’m saying that because I would have liked to have seen the relationship and the characters explored a little more, or I thought there could have been more nuance to the characters.


I’m thinking specifically of the scene where Brian reveals that he has been sleeping with the Baron, too. Sally seems to sort of shrug this off, and Fosse doesn’t explore the issue any further. I felt this was a bit false, at least without further revelation about Sally.

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