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All That Jazz: Criterion Collection DVD Review

All That Jazz: Criterion Collection

September 3, 2014

Director: Bob Fosse,
Starring: Roy Scheider, Jessica Lange, Ann Reinking, Leland Palmer, Cliff Gorman, Ben Vereen, Erzserbet Foldi,

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DVD Review

Legendary choreographer Bob Fosse unfortunately did not get a chance to direct many films, but the ones he did bear his unmistakable stamp, none more so than All That Jazz (1979), which stands as one of the purest expressions of an artist’s creative process. It is also arguably Fosse’s most personal film featuring a brilliant yet mercurial artist, much like the man who made it.

Joe Gideon (Scheider) is immersed in mounting a Broadway production with an energy and intensity that is fueled by amphetamines, cigarettes, alcohol, and sex. He’s burning the candle at both ends, managing to keep it together during the day while succumbing to his various vices at night only to get up the next morning and start it all over again.

Fosse starts off by immersing us in the day-to-day minutia of creating a Broadway production as we see all kinds of aspiring dancers audition in the hopes of getting a place in the cast. These people put their blood, sweat and tears – everything they’ve got – into making it. We see Joe argue with the producers over who to cast. Fosse provides fascinating insight as he takes us behind the curtain.

Joe’s ex-wife (Reinking) and child (Foldi) try in vain to get some face time with him, but when he’s not working on the show he’s editing a movie. The pressure of his workload can be seen taking its toll on the man, from his bloodshot eyes to his sickly pale complexion. In addition to his wife, Joe is juggling several other women and not doing a good job of it.

The 1970s was a good decade for Roy Scheider what with films like The French Connection (1971), The Seven-Ups (1973) and Jaws (1975). He closed out the decade with All That Jazz, delivering a tour-de-force performance, acting as Fosse’s cinematic alter ego. The actor delves deep, past the tortured artist cliché to portray a man gifted with genius, but also tormented by his own personal demons.

Fosse moves back and forth in time as he chronicles Joe’s self-destructive downward spiral in the present intercut with his past depicting the formative stages of his artistic career. Also thrown into the mix is a fantasy world that exists in Joe’s mind where he confesses his sins to a beautiful angel of death (Lange). What is so striking about All That Jazz is how Fosse is so unflinchingly critical about himself – his personal and professional life. The film takes a fascinating look at what drives an artist and how his behavior affects those around him. Fosse bravely puts it all out there for the world to see and that takes a special kind of confidence in one’s abilities that few possess.

Special Features:

This new Blu-Ray transfer sports top notch detail and excellent contrast – better than previous editions. Fosse’s images come to life in vibrant detail.

There is an audio commentary by editor Alan Heim who recounts filming anecdotes, which mainly consist of what it was like to work with Fosse. Naturally, he talks about the editing choices that were made at various points in All That Jazz.

Next up is selected scene commentary by actor Roy Scheider. He recalls his experiences working on the film including how he took certain aspects of Fosse and channeled them into his performance. Scheider points out that Richard Dreyfuss was originally set to play Joe Gideon, but didn’t think he was right for the part.

“Reinking and Foldi.” Ann Reinking and Erzsebet Foldi discuss the famous song and dance routine they did in All That Jazz to the tune of “Everything Old is New Again.” They talk about auditioning for the film and reminisce about what it was like to be in such a highly-regarded production at that time. It is nice to see that these two women have remained friends over the years.

Also included is a trailer.

“Tomorrow” is an episode of Tom Snyder’s late night talk show featuring Fosse and fellow choreographer Agnes de Mille that aired in 1980. They delve into their art, talking about things like auditions and what it is like being on the stage vs. working behind the scenes.

There is an interview with editor Alan Heim. He talks about how meeting Fosse got him interested in movie musicals. He edited several of the man’s films and talks about working with Fosse and how he approached editing his work.

Also included is an interview with Sam Wasson, author the biography Fosse. He talks about the autobiographical aspects of Fosse’s films and how All That Jazz is the most explicit in that regard. He also sheds light on Fosse’s life and how it is reflected in the film.

“The South Bank Show” is a 1981 episode of this television show with an in-depth interview with Fosse. He comes across as a fascinating figure who speaks at length about his life and work. Fosse led an amazing life and this extra provides insight into it.

“Gene Shalit Interview with Bob Fosse” was conducted in 1986 – a year before he died. They go in-depth about the art of choreography and he talks about his own mortality as well as quitting smoking. He comes across as an engaging subject that speaks honestly and with humor.

“On the Set” features behind-the-scenes footage of Fosse directing a sequence from All That Jazz and a brief interview with Scheider, which gives some insight into his working methods.

“Portrait of a Choreographer” is 23-minute 2007 featurette about Fosse’s distinctive choreography style with interviews with collaborators and admirers like Liza Minnelli and Sandahl Bergman who gush about him and his style of dancing.

“The Soundtrack: Perverting the Standards” takes a look at the film’s soundtrack with composers like Glen Ballard, Mark Mothersbaugh and Diane Warren talking about it. It is pointed out that All That Jazz reinvented the movie musical with sequences that anticipated music videos.

Finally, there is “The Making of the Song ‘On Broadway’,” which features singer/songwriter George Benson talking about how he recorded a cover of the 1963 song “On Broadway,” which was used at the beginning of the film.

J.D. is a freelance writer who is currently doing research for a book on the films of Michael Mann. He likes reading anything written by Jack Kerouac, James Ellroy, J.D. Salinger, Harlan Ellison or Thomas Pynchon. J.D. is currently addicted to the T.V. series 24 and enjoys drinking a lot of Sprite. This is not a blatant plug for the beverage but if they ever decided to give him a lifetime supply he certainly wouldn’t turn them down.
view all DVD reviews by JD Lafrance

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Rating: 100%

Website: http://www.criterion.com/films/28561-all-that-jazz

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