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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful.
Weimar's cautionary tale -- the pursuit of happiness as a distraction
By Robert Hayes
The pursuit of happiness, enshrined as a right in the US Constitution, is one of the greatest motivating factors in all of human history. It can also be one of the biggest distractions. CABARET, from the musical by Kander and Ebb and directed by Bob Fosse, is sort of an examination of this through the historical lens of late Weimar Germany as it succumbed to Nazism. Liza Minnelli is Sally Bowles, a dancer/singer at the Kit Kat Club who has dreams of becoming a famous actress; and Michael York is Brian Jordan, an English philosophy student who is in Germany for cultural enrichment and to make some money. Both of these tragic figures are the conduit for the audience, with Sally being the fantasy side of things and Brian being the reality. As with CHICAGO, although a little less so here, the musical numbers don't just move the story along (all while being organic) but also comment upon it as well. This, for me, is what sets Kander/Ebb musicals apart from the rest. Nazism begins as a mere nuisance but, as the film progresses, becomes more of a presence (and present threat). This is mirrored in the pacing of musical sequences which are initially spaced out a little sparsely but become more frequent as the film goes on. From an interpretive standpoint (and this is just my opinion), this implies (through the nature of what a cabaret is and entails) that our willingness to be entertained and distracted, even if only temporarily, is what allows political extremism/tragedy/etc. to insidiously take hold. No scene in CABARET is more chilling than when the young Nazi starts singing (what I think is) a folk song, and his audience gradually joins in with him. In fact, this entire musical is filled with pathos of varying types, which is why I think it's so effective. The cabaret is a metaphor for the ways we try to mask our pain, to find happiness, but it often comes at the expense of our dignity. From a technical perspective, all of the performances were solid with special marks being given to the leads. However, Joel Grey as the Master of Ceremonies was just as entertaining, perhaps the most so as his role provided dramatic and musical unity to the film. He was also simply hilarious to watch. There was also dynamite editing, choreography, lighting, etc., making it a sort-of ancestor to the music video. If there's one complaint I can levy, it's that the film takes a little too much time to get going, although once it gets into gear it doesn't let up. All things considered, CABARET is a stunning accomplishment that still holds relevance in this day and age of disillusionment with the political establishment. I'm a little hesitant to draw parallels between the America of today and the Germany of then, but it's a little disconcerting to feel like the only thing keeping us from making the same mistakes is that we've never suffered the abject humiliation that Germany suffered at the end of WWI. On a more positive note, CABARET exists as a testament to the power of entertainment, and definitely deserves its status as one of the best musicals ever put to film.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful.
Time has not diminished the power of this 1972 film. I saw if forty-five years ago, when it was first released, and loved it. I just saw it again, and it is even more relevant today, given the state of the world, both abroad and at home. I loved it even more the second time around, as it serves as a stark reminder just how insidiously a fascist regime can insert itself into the everyday lives of people.
The film begins in 1931 Berlin. The Nazis are just starting to insinuate themselves into the politics of the Weimar Republic. The Kit Kat Club is a somewhat tawdry nightclub where people can come and be entertained and forget their troubles. It is there that Joel Grey works as an entertainer and master of ceremonies, and Lisa Minelli plays the breakout role of Sally Bowles, an American seeking stardom, looking for her big break. Michael York is an Englishman whose path crosses that of Sally Bowles, and, for a while, his life becomes interwoven with hers. Marisa Berensen is achingly lovely as the Jewish department store heiress who becomes heartbreaking aware of what may be in store for her in the future.
Unlike most musicals, the song and dance numbers are not strewn willy nilly throughout the film. They are confined to those scenes that take place in the nightclub with one exception. It is the one musical number not sung by Joel Grey or Lisa Minelli. Yet, it is probably the most powerful one in the film. Moreover, those musical scenes in the nightclub slowly change in tenor from the beginning to the end of the film, reflecting the change in the political climate in Germany as the Nazis gain ascendancy.
The acting is first rate in this fim, as is every single musical number, reflective of the outstanding direction of Bob Fosse. It is the message of this film, however, that is of the utmost importance. Take heed, America, or you may all find yourselves singing, "Tomorrow Belongs To Me".
28 of 28 people found the following review helpful. See all 714 customer reviews...
Shame on you Warner Brothers
By Bobby Jeffcoat
The same cover from 2004, but hidden by a new sleeve. Released again in 2008. On the the cover the claim, "enhanced for widescreen TVs". Shame on you Warner Brothers. You've repackaged the old release which was not (and is not) enhanced for widescreen TVs. Now I have two copies with black bars on all four sides. Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice... It won't happen again, until the word hits the streets that a Warner Brothers Release is truly anamorphic, I won't buy. Bad business move. Very Bad.