Directed By: Bob Fosse
Starring: Liza Minnelli, Michael York, Helmut Griem
Tag line: "A divinely decadent experience!"
Trivia: Many of the film's interior scenes were shot on sound stages in Munich that had recently been vacated by the cast and crew of Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory
A former dancer and Tony award-winning choreographer, Bob Fosse came to Hollywood in the late ‘60s to direct his first feature film, Sweet Charity, which was based on a Broadway musical (one he himself had worked on). With Shirley MacLaine playing the title character, Sweet Charity was an enjoyable movie (I love the Big Spender routine), and Fosse followed it up a few years later with a film that won eight Academy Awards, including Best Director: 1972’s Cabaret.
Berlin, 1931. Brian Roberts (Michael York), a British teacher who’s just arrived in town, rents a room next door to Sally Bowles (Liza Minnelli), an American singer who works at the Kit Kat club, a nightclub where people from all walks of life (Nazis included) come to have a good time. A free spirit, Sally soon captures Brian’s heart, and the two become romantically involved. Things begin to change, however, when wealthy playboy Max (Helmut Griem) enters the picture. It isn’t long before Sally finds herself falling for Max, but what she doesn’t realize is that Brian is hiding a few secrets of his own.
Liza Minnelli is charismatic in the lead role, a performance that won her a well-deserved Oscar for Best Actress. As expected, she handles the film’s musical numbers with the greatest of ease (her Cabaret is a definite highlight), as does Joel Grey, the Kit Kat’s emcee, who kicks the movie off with a wonderful rendition of Willkommen. But while Cabaret is an impressive musical, there are as many memorable scenes set outside the Kit Kat club as there are inside it. Even when she’s not singing, Minnelli shines, effortlessly conveying her character’s flighty, unpredictable nature, and the movie also addresses Germany’s political climate at the time, including the ever-growing threat of fascism (at one point, Brian is attacked by some Nazi soldiers). Throughout Cabaret, director Fosse strikes the perfect balance between music and story, giving us just the right amount of both.
In all, Fosse would direct five motion pictures; aside from Sweet Charity and Cabaret, he helmed the excellent biopic, Lenny, as well as All That Jazz in 1979 and Star 80 in 1983. All are fine films (especially All That Jazz, Fosse’s most autobiographical work), yet Cabaret will always be his masterpiece.