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Who needs a Bob Fosse biopic when we already have 'All That Jazz'?

January 20, 2011 |  5:57 pm


The news of a planned HBO biopic on the life of director Bob Fosse has theater buffs buzzing this week. "X-Men" director Bryan Singer is attached to the still-in-development project, adding even more intrigue to the pot. But we at Culture Monster are a bit more skeptical about the whole enterprise. In fact, when we first read about the movie, our first reaction was: Who needs a Fosse biopic when Fosse beat everyone to the punch years ago?

Released in 1979, "All That Jazz" is Fosse's bonkers autobiographical account of his own creative and physical meltdown. The movie stars Roy Scheider as the lightly fictionalized Fosse character, Joe Gideon — a chain-smoking, Dexedrine-addicted, self-destructive director who is trying to juggle careers on Broadway and in the movies. Fosse, who directed the film and co-wrote the screenplay with Robert Alan Aurthur, created a truly idiosyncratic movie — a vanity-free autopsy of a man whose sexual and emotional selfishness often eclipsed his artistic generosity of spirit.

"All That Jazz" was directly inspired by a real event in Fosse's career. In 1974, the director-choreographer suffered a near-fatal heart attack while working on the musical "Chicago" and post-production on his movie "Lenny," starring Dustin Hoffman. Fosse's friend Shirley MacLaine is said to have urged the director to turn his near-death experience into a movie. And thus the idea for "All That Jazz" was born.

But Fosse's movie proved to be a nightmare production. His notorious perfectionism (plus a constantly changing script) caused the shooting to go over schedule. Columbia Pictures was intent on pulling the plug, but 20th Century Fox stepped in with more money to help finish the movie. "All That Jazz" went on to win four Oscars and shared the 1980 Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival.

All of which brings us back to the HBO movie, which will be based on the nonfiction book "Bye, Bye Life: The Loves and Deaths of Bob Fosse" by Sam Wasson. The book's title is a reference to the climactic fantasy scene in "All That Jazz" in which Scheider and Ben Vereen perform the song based on the Everly Brothers' "Bye, Bye Love."

That should be enough to tip off the folks at HBO that any movie made about Fosse will have to stand in the shadow of "All That Jazz." The film is a behemoth in the musical-film genre — you simply can't get around it. It is also that rare movie musical that is highly esteemed by both theater and film critics — a testament to Fosse's unmistakable style (often imitated today) and the sheer force of his personality. No one can do Fosse better than Fosse. So why try?

For those who haven't seen the movie in awhile, here's one of its most famous sequences in which Gideon-Fosse performs his morning routine of eyedrops, Alka-Seltzer, cigarettes, prescription pills and Vivaldi.


'Chicago' creators say Disney and Miramax broke contract to the tune of $12 million-plus

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— David Ng

Photo: Roy Scheider in "All That Jazz." Credit: Hollywood Entertainment Museum.


Comments () | Archives (1)

Movie critics are just as shallow as any other, and always wrong with this movie just as they are with Black Swan. They are not dance movies, no more than Apocalypse Now was a Vietnam war movie, those are just the backgrounds for a journey attempting to unite mind, body and soul, and failing. Which gives a much better example to explore and reveal the saga we all live, if truly creative types. Which critics and artistes aren't and so see what they want to see, themselves as drama queens.

This is one of my five greatest movies of all time, perfect in unting sensuality, control, and spirituality. Splintered, but there and trying to unite. And succeeding in their portrayal, but one must understand such tngs to feel them and recognize, those who are splintred and into just one or two facets of who We are dont get it. Its creative art, the highest common denominator of mankind, but seen as the lowest, entertainment, by those who are fixated on their own desires.

I will admit, All that Jazz means more to me than Black Swan, which is for woman, of the feminine, while Jazz the masculine. My wife feels Swan more than I do, and vice versa. But we both recognize the same parallel path, and that men and women are different, yet complementary parts, yin and yang of life. Swan is symbolical, even more so than Jazz and so needs a suspension of naturalist believes. The idealist perfection of Nadia, the smothering control of the mother, the sensual abandon of the new girl, but what we see is not always real, they are symbols of fiercely fighting emotionns and facets of who we are in total. Soul, mind and body in competition, when they are truly one. Balance is all.

You can read a much better review of Swan at my wifes magazine site

All that Jazz is NOT truly autobiographical, but a structure around which to build a piece of art, which is always an exploration of who We are, seeking what it means to be human, the essence of Our species. Not childish self expression, but mature expressions of life.

art collegia delenda est


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