#23. All That Jazz (1979)
Directed by: Bob Fosse
Written by: Robert Alan Aurthur, Bob Fosse
Starring: Roy Scheider, Jessica Lange, Leland Palmer, Ann Reinking
All That Jazz is Bob Fosse’s semi autobiographical masterpiece about his experiences as stage dancer and director, as well as his time working on his previous film Lenny and the stage production of Chicago simultaneously. All That Jazz follows stage director and performer Joe Gideon (Roy Scheider) as he splits his time between editing a feature film and directing an ambitious new Broadway show. In order to cope with the stress, Joe relies on his a trusty cocktail of cigarettes and pills, which eventually catch up to him. Joe eventually begins to experience serious chest pains and is rushed to the hospital – where he is forced to stay for a number of weeks. With his projects on hold indefinitely, Joe is forced to deal with his health issues and reevaluate his life decisions. What follows is a surreal and dreamlike series of bombastic musical numbers and existential angst, imagined only as a visionary like Bob Fosse could. Roy Scheider gives a career-best performance as Joe Gideon, who is a compulsive, workaholic visionary who never comes across as anything short of genuine. Scheider’s Joe is perfectly understated and subtle – something I had never seen from the actor before All That Jazz. Bob Fosse’s work behind the camera is highly energetic, self-indulgent, and full the director’s stylistic flares – the dream sequences in particular are some of the highlights of All That Jazz. The director’s attention to detail pays off in spades in the incredibly well-choreographed musical numbers, proving that his time on the stage could translate perfectly to the big screen. The screenplay by the duo of Fosse and Robert Alan Aurthur is entirely self-aware and death-obsessed – it’s clear that these themes and ruminations are coming from a very intimate and personal place. All That Jazz is Bob Fosse’s brilliant take on a subject many all-time great directors have tackled – a self-aware exploration of the tortured mind of an artist, obsessed with their legacy and their untimely death. It’s easy to argue that Fosse’s film is self-indulgent and more impressed with itself than it should be, but to deny its sense of passion and the artistry involved would be plain foolish. All That Jazz is not always an easy or joyful watch (especially for a musical), but it’s one hell of an affecting film.