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~生まれた町で夢見てきた...~
"In the city of my birth, I had a dream..."
Cabaret (Bob Fosse, 1972) 
5th-Oct-2006 05:29 pm
Dream
I rented Cabaret last friday because I was in the mood for some mindless entertainment, and an MHC professor mentioned to me once that it was similar to Chicago. FINALLY watched it last night.

Well, sad to say that I didn't ask her to be more specific. While, yes, thematically, stylistically, and musically Cabaret and Chicago are indeed similar, while the latter is a guilty pleasure, the former constitutes one of the worst emotional drags I've seen on film in recent memory. Nothing like watching people burn the candle at both ends while fascism takes over to lift the spirits, you know?

I wish I were still in school; there're a bunch of papers to be written about the two films. For, while Chicago is sardonically post-feminist and borderline misogynistic, Cabaret is far more sympathetic. Both movies star a woman who is trying to sleep her way to the showbiz top, but while Roxie has to get away with murder (crime of passion, possible psychosis) before achieving her dream, you see Sally thinking it over and making a conscious choice of career over family and domestic life. Liza Minelli's performance of the title song on the heels of her abortion and breakup with the sexually-confused Isherwood-ringer Brian (no way it would've lasted had she gone through with it, anyway) is beautiful, emotionally pure, and, heck, even feminist.

But too bad my feelings for Cabaret aren't all positive. Because there's also the Emcee. Need I say more? *cringes*

Actually, yes I do. His reflected closeup is the first shot of the entire film, and from that point on, watching his many performances made me feel like I was witnessing a train wreck in progress. Now, I'm in no way implying that Joel Grey's performance wasn't absolutely brilliant and deserving of the awards he's won for it.* But I can't remember the last time I saw such a stereotypical and pernicious cinematic depiction of a homosexual character. It's not enough that the Emcee be middle-aged, ugly, hideously made-up, effeminate, and cross-dressing; there's also a profoundly sinister undercurrent to the character. Never mind that, had he really existed back then, the Nazis would've cheerfully shoved him into an oven (or something similarly gruesome and final)--I got the distinct impression from the film that the Emcee is willfully and knowingly complicit in their takeover of Germany.** At the very least, telling people to forget about the real world and leave their troubles behind encourages a kind of know-nothing attitude amongst his audience, but then (and this just made me want to hurl) during a performance of the Nazi propaganda song "The Future Belongs to Me," there is a brief shot of the Emcee smiling malevolently edited in. Urk.


*Everything else afterward that Grey has done is a whimper in comparison to Cabaret. Anyone else notice that he was on FOX's House a few weeks ago?
**In fact, I found the 1998 revival performance of the opening "Willkommen"...and, sure enough, there were serious and significant changes to the Emcee. Naturally, the dirty old pervert look is gone (replaced by a half-naked, buff--if still campy--young body). But, more importantly, the Emcee in the new version seems much less sinister. Given the Joel Grey alternative, I think a naive (or possibly just over-confident) dupe of a regime that will soon attempt eliminate him and his way of life is eminently preferable.
Comments 
5th-Oct-2006 11:33 pm (UTC)
Wow, I remember when they had that on Broadway (hmm, maybe not the first time around) and Joel Gray was in it and was featured in the commercial that was running constantly! I can see it now, and yeah, quite sinister, scary even ^^;;

Hmm, have you ever seen All That Jazz? It was Fosse's semi-autobiographical movie in which he also accurately predicted his own death from heart disease.. The lead is played by Roy Scheider, which seemed like odd casting to play a dying choreographer, but I think it was his best ever performance.. Totally disturbing ending too......
6th-Oct-2006 12:42 am (UTC)
hmm, maybe not the first time around

Do you remember the 60's? :P

Hmm, have you ever seen All That Jazz?

Nope. ^^;

You know, heart disease IS, like, the most common cause of death...and he probably knew if he had risk factors or not...
6th-Oct-2006 12:56 am (UTC)
He had been a chain smoker, among other vices, and I think by that time he pretty much knew he was doomed ^^; I don't think he too much longer after that movie...

And fortunately, I do not remember the 60s!! ^_^ It must have been a remake, or whatever ^^
6th-Oct-2006 12:59 am (UTC)
It must have been a remake, or whatever

Maybe; I don't know all that much about the show's history. Or maybe you saw the movie trailer? That gives you the creepy first shot of Cabaret, as well.
6th-Oct-2006 01:10 am (UTC)
Nah, I wouldn't remember a movie trailer from that long ago anyway ^^; I'm pretty sure they must have redone it on stage with Joel Gray, because I remember the "With Joel Gray!!" part in the ad...

A little info.. It even has the angel of death as a beautiful woman ^_^;;

Oh, he lived for 8 years after the movie, more than I thought...
6th-Oct-2006 01:15 am (UTC)
Have you seen Cabaret? (Any version? ^^; )
6th-Oct-2006 01:26 am (UTC)
no ^^;;;;
6th-Oct-2006 01:29 am (UTC)
Check it out if you get a chance. I'm wondering if I'm the only one who had such an adverse reaction to the Emcee. My parents thought I should just lighten up.

Still, the song/dance numbers were fun, if nothing else...

(You know it came out the same year as Godfather? Must've been a really good year for movies...)
6th-Oct-2006 01:51 am (UTC)
Just the clips I've seen of him were incredibly creepy ^^ Of course, there were people in Germany at that time who dressed funny and were very very sinister and good at drawing in crowds ^^;;;;
6th-Oct-2006 01:56 am (UTC)
Of course, there were people in Germany at that time who dressed funny and were very very sinister and good at drawing in crowds

At the time the movie was set or at the time the movie was made? :P
6th-Oct-2006 02:00 am (UTC)
*laughs*

At the time it was set ^_^;;
6th-Oct-2006 02:01 am (UTC)
Err...was Hitler around in 1931? I dunno... ^^;;;;;;
6th-Oct-2006 09:38 am (UTC)
Hitler had been around for quite a while before he finally managed to get the supreme power in 1933. The Nazis had been active since the 1920s.
6th-Oct-2006 09:37 am (UTC)
You know it came out the same year as Godfather? Must've been a really good year for movies...

You liked The Godfather?
6th-Oct-2006 10:11 am (UTC)
Absolutely. ^_^
6th-Oct-2006 10:25 am (UTC)
I just don't get the whole thing with Mafia movies. Icky! All that macho posturing. They're such boys' movies! And The Godfather movies were so tedious as well.
6th-Oct-2006 10:31 am (UTC)
The first time around, when I watched at the age of sixteen or something, I thought it was boring beyond all description. Seeing it some 6+ years later changed my mind; it's a wonderfully-crafted film.

And besides, the whole macho posturing thing is just that--posturing--and to be understood that way. In the end, Michael dies utterly alone and broken. He rationalizes everything that he's doing as being for his family, but of course his wife and kids either choose to abandon him or get killed thanks to him.
6th-Oct-2006 10:34 am (UTC)
I'm afraid I just don't care what happens to gangsters. It seems to be a very American obsession.
6th-Oct-2006 10:36 am (UTC)
Maybe you have to be raised in an Italian-American family (or another ethnicity that's obsessed with the familial in-group) to appreciate how right Coppola got it.

Have you seen Cabaret by the way? I'm still fishing for competing or complementary reactions to the emcee character.
6th-Oct-2006 10:44 am (UTC)
Have you seen Cabaret by the way?

Only about 27 times! It's absolutely my favourite movie ever. Everything you said about Emcee is absolutely true of course. But then it's supposed to be a very disturbing film. From what I know about Berlin at that time it captures the feel remarkably well. And Liza Minnelli! Say what you like about her subsequent career, in this movie she is perfection. Sally Bowles is the great love of my life. Although Brian (the Michael York character) is kinda cute as well.
6th-Oct-2006 10:52 am (UTC)
But then it's supposed to be a very disturbing film.

I still don't see why they had to do it that way, though. *sighs* Loud and campy isn't thrilling, but I can live with it. Gray's and the film's interpretation, on the other hand, was a distillation of every negative, biased nightmare about homosexuals that has ever stomped through film. And (this is an oppositional reading, but) there's no way that this had a better effect than any alternatives.

Although Brian (the Michael York character) is kinda cute as well.

I thought he was boring. XD And I knew he was the pseudo-Isherwood character from the first shot of him even though I haven't read his Berlin novels. (I need to get around to that. I have a copy already.)
6th-Oct-2006 10:58 am (UTC)
was a distillation of every negative, biased nightmare about homosexuals

But then it had very sympathetic homosexual/bisexual characters as well.
6th-Oct-2006 11:04 am (UTC)
I'll presume you aren't talking about the cameo of the transsexual or that rich guy. :P But if you're talking about Brian...

I'm not convinced that the movie intended him to be a "true" homosexual; they were kinda waffling at the "confused" stage for him. BESIDES, if you believe that their marriage would've worked out, then the oversexed woman "reformed" him. If on the other hand, you believe it wouldn't have worked in the long run and she was right to leave him, then he was being a naive ass for proposing in the first place.
6th-Oct-2006 11:01 am (UTC)
even though I haven't read his Berlin novels.

You haven't read Isherwood's Berlin stories!!!!! My goodness. He was one of the most important gay writers of the 20th century, and they're his finest work.

The movie has very little to do with Isherwood's stories. In the books Sally Bowles is English. There's no sexual relationship with the equivalent of the Brian character since he's exclusively gay (although there is a close emotional attachment).
6th-Oct-2006 11:06 am (UTC)
I got rather depressed with his writing after A Single Man, but then that was a later and more embittered stage for Isherwood, perhaps.

There's no sexual relationship with the equivalent of the Brian character since he's exclusively gay

I didn't think that there was.
6th-Oct-2006 10:33 am (UTC)
Must've been a really good year for movies...

The period from about 1967 to about 1978 was the Golden Age of American Cinema. Never before or since has Hollywood made so many good movies for grownups. The Conversation; The Long Goodbye; Thieves Like Us; Klute; They Might Be Giants; Chinatown; Pretty Poison; They Shoot Horses, Don’t They; Rachel, Rachel; High Plains Drifter; The Day of the Locust. An incredible outpouring of creative genius. Then along came George Lucas, and Hollywood went back to making movies for children.
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