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March 20, 1980 - Image 6

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The Michigan Daily, 1980-03-20

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Page 6-Thursday, March 20, 1980-The Michigan Daily
Fosse's ode to narcissism

zy, druggy, womanizing existence from everything else and than made
but out "reality," but we never get a something great out of it. Fosse gave us
ipse of that reality because Fosse's the tears behind the clown's smiling
ssion sucks it up like a vacuum mask, and then he showed how it was
ner. He's so thoroughly absorbed in the tears that made the mask so
el that he's neglected to give the glorious - a grand illusion.
a realistic ballast - a soul. In- All That Jazz lacks that same tension
d, All That Jazz dissolves into a between show-biz and tears,
p of glittering but desensitized stylization and reality, art and life.
,ments. Perhaps Fosse could have come up with
HAT'S TOO bad, since there's a at least a satisfying entertainment had
ific story buried under the rubble - he gone in the opposite direction and
no one is better equipped to tell that made the movie pure frosting, a revel
y than Fosse. Though his greatest in artifice - something along the lines
is his showman's bravura, in of his Broadway hit Dancin', where he
aret the razzle-dazzle sprung from dropped the insipid story pretenses that
story, from the morally up-ended dragged down Pippin, stylizing his art
osphere and the twisted relation- into a series of setpieces.
s, so that when Liza Minelli finally But All That Jazz is drenched in lof-
: over the stage to sing that "life is a tier intentions. Fosse, who wrote the
aret," it was a submission as well as script (with Robert Alan Aurthur),
elebration. Cabaret was about how directed, and did the choreography, has
Bowles used show-biz as a refuge gone to ridiculously detailed lengths to
show us that this is really "The Bob
Fosse Story." He's made the per-
sonalization of art absurdly literal: Roy
Scheider's neatly manicured beard and
bristling brush-cut make him a clone-
'like Fo'sealter-ego; in the movie, he's
rehearsing a new, highly sexualized
Broadway show featuring his ex-wife
(Fosse staged the controversial
-rCenter Chicago starring his ex-wife, Gwen
Verdon); at the same time, he's months
ThursdayMrh2 ppast deadline editing a film about a
League nightclub comic (Fosse was then
ckets at PTP in the Calea1uediting Lenny); finally, he suffers a
series of heart attacks (ditto for Fosse),
the drastic result of his high-strung
lifestyle and a rather scathing pan of
his new movie. '
ALL OF THIS is intercut with liberal
FOR helpings of Joe's stagebound
imagination: Vainglorious dance num-
bers featuring the characters, both
public and private, over whom he
reigns; sepuchral encounters with his
white-draped sexy dream-goddess,
which take place in a shabby, smoky
backstage crammed with show-biz
lections) paraphernalia.sThere areralso some
snippets of a story (by far the most
B EPRSEH I P OPEN numbing partsw of the movie) concer-
ning his ex-wife (Leland Palmer),
girlfriend (Ann Reinking), and the
XLED young dancers Joe lays during off-
Of course, "off-hours" is really a
EARS misnomer, since the whole point is that
Joe Gideon is never, ever off; his entire
life is a tawdry show-biz escapist fan-
AT tasy, a glittery hoax. The star of his
SSEMBLY OFFICE "Lenny" movie (played by Cliff Gor-
A N UNION man, who - yet another inside referen-
ce - starred as Lenny Bruce in the
ARCH 25, 1980 original Broadway musical) says he's
on to Joe. He says Joe is obsessed with
women because of a deep-rooted fear

he's gay, and obsessed with show-biz
because of a deep-rooted fear he's nor-
mal. Joe states blankly at the camera,
eyes closed to half-slits, and says, "Ri-i-
ight!" He's past the point of caring. He
sold his soul years ago, as a teenager,
tapdancing in strip joints, and now he's
just a dreamer of shiny reveries.
THAT FOSSE obviously chose
Fellini's 81/2 as his inspiration/model is
a fairly good indication of how All That
Jazz goes haywire. Who wants another
Fellini!? The problem with 8% and so
many of the overblown Fellini epics
isn't the director's fatuous ego-tripping,
his "self-indulgence," but the lack of
any convincing psychological
framework. In 8%, we're told
everything about the tortured director-
hero who can't seem to get his movie or
his life started, but we're never told
why we should care; Fellini never
makes any connections between his life
and anyone else's, so the experience is
that of watching a super self-
reverential, in-jokey home-movie.
Fosse falls into the same, numbing
trap. Joe Gideon manages to tell us
everything about himself,- his
boozing, his broads, even his naked fear
of death - without telling us anything.
In a key line he says. "Sometimes I
make our own beds, fan our own bullshit;
peace and contentment might have
been nice, but hell, that's showbiz. Jazz
inverts Manhattan's final faith:
Everyone does get corrupted, but so
what? Existence is still a kick.
The few moments with a vaguely
realistic ring are tossed into the glitz
with an air of easy-going casualness
that almost seems random.Joe has a
warm, teasing relationship with
Michelle, his daughter - about the only
female in the film he isn't involved with
sexually - and the young actress, Er-
zsebet Foldi, gives an appealingly un-
precocious performance. In the best
scene in the movie, she stages a flashy
hat-and-cane number for her father in
the living room, and Foldi wins us over
with her energy and her zesty grin.
Despite an obvious wealth of dance
lessons, Joe hasn't turned her into a
Pavlovian show-biz junkie yet, and the
audience can ease up, aware that
there's an air of reality outside the
BUT THEN there's Joe bantering
with his ex-wife about their rocky
marriage, running through anecdotes
about his affairs with the casual world-
weariness of a senile Don Juan. There's
no emotion in the stupid, jaded encoun-
ter, just empty words. Joe (and Fosse)
manages to be self-lacerating without a

Ben Vereen and Roy Schneider, at center, musically satirize TV talk shows
in a typically baroque fantasy sequence from direc-
tor/writer/choreographer Bob Fosse's All That Jazz. In the movie, Scheider
plays thinly disguised Fosse alter ego Joe Gideon, who also happens to be a
Broadway and Hollywood director/writer/choreographer. Critics and
audiences for All That Jazz have been sharply divided in opinion, calling it
alternately a work of brilliance and a self-indulgent wallow in narcissism.
The Arts section offers two opposing views, at left and on page 7.

whisper of remorse. He's got his
girlfriends lined up like groupies and
locked into a crude double-standard -
he can fool around, but they can't - and
Joe knows it, but it doesn't really bother
him, since on his own terms it's an even
bargain: He has more privileges, but
then he's the genius with the glossy
show-biz dreams, and they're nobodies.
You're only as good as your last hit.
This is a horribly egocentric
philosophy, but worse, it's never ex-
plored - just asserted. And Fosse is
such a startling showman that we want
to know what's behind it all. What
makes a man like Joe Gideon commit
his life to illusion, push people around
like pawns, and drive himself to the
grave? We can't really tell from Roy
Scheider's performance. Scheider is
tense and lean, a convincing physical
presence, but finding any logic in the
nothing script would take even: more
show-biz magic than Bob Fosse's got up
his sleeve.
OCCASIONALLY, through sheer ac-
tor's intuition, we get a glimpse of Joe's
underlying struggles. Eyebrows knitted
with brooding intensity, a cigarette
dangling from his thin, pursed lips,
Scheider looks like a man whose wick
has been sizzled. He screens one
sequence from his movie over and over
(a "Lenny Bruce"-ish monologue about
death), ironing out every nuance with
the possessed glare of "the artist." Joe
doesn't just want quality, he wants per-
fection, and he's travelled far enough
along his show-biz odyssey to know he's
probably never going to get there. Joe's
an artiste with the blood of a New York
cabbie. He's that pectliar American
hybrid, the master corporate enter-
tainer who must combine the shrewd,
cold pragmatism of a business magnate
with the grace and tenderness of a
ballet dancer. But Fosse has cut
Scheider down to three emotions:
Arrogance, amusement, and a pinch of

desperation. Everything else has bee4
ground out.
Which leaves All That Jazz about as
successful.as its disjointed pieces. For
awhile the movie coasts along on sheer
flash and energy. There's a nifty mon-
tage (repeated about five times) of Joe
going through his early-morning
routine, slipping on his Vivaldi casset-
te, taking his uppers, smoking in the
shower, and facing the mirror with a
cheery, "It's showtime, folks!" An4
there's a wonderful little scene with Joe
and a beefy, gap-toothed hospital
janitor singing "Pack Up Your
Troubles." But Fosse's gaze is so self-
directed he won't even let his dancers
stand on their own feet. There's a long,
tiresome series of "Hospital Fan-
tasies," and since, the dancing isn't
especially compelling, we're obviously
supposed to enjoy it as a stylized ren-
dition of Joe's life. But who wants a car-
toon of a cartoon? When an ultra-hokeyg
Sammy Davis-type phoney (Be
Vereen) tells us that Joe Gideon was
such a bulshitter that his only reality;
man, was death, how are we supposed
to understand what the death of this.
put-on artist "means"?
THE FEAR-OF-DEATH bit (treated
ultimately, with stunned seriousness) i
such a hopeless cliche that even Foss ,
can't milk much razzle-dazzle out of it
When we finally arrive at the climactic
death-fantasy number, the height 6
Joe's imagination splashed all over the
screen, it looks like a giant Dr. Pepper
commercial. Instead of a grotesque,
Ken Russellish nightmare with leering
nymphets and neon pallbearers, we get
Joe Gideon singing "lByeye Life" (to
a supremely unzesty, De Severinson-
ish rave-up of "Bye, Bye Love") and
watching his lovers, friends, and
enemies weeping their regrets and tap-
dancing little 'we-knew you'd-get-yours
numbers. (The fact that Scheider is ob
viously no singer or dancer waters
down the energy even .more; next to
Ben Vereen's classy night-club
crooning, Joe doesn't even look like i
very accomplished showman - he
sounds slightly sick.
Where's all the grisly, horror-filnr
perversity Fosse brought to the
exquisitely garish numbers in Cabaret?
It's all been drowned in a haze of empty.
self-absorption. Even the big, eroti
niumber in Joe's show leaves us cold~
because the eroticism is so explicit (at
one point, the dancers all pound a plat
form in a thrusting, coital frenzy) it's
almost silly; we're mostly curious
about how close Fosse is going to come
to staging an actual sex act onstage.'
When an established novelist or'
director turns from fictional subjects to
his own life, the results are sometimes
incisive, usually a little embarrassing.
But All That Jazz is such a hermetic
pop, trashy confessional that it dies liki
an exposed nerve. Fosse gives the story'
a coat of self-deprecation by saying that
his life isn't worth much more than
grist for a few dance numbers. Beneath
that layer, the barely fictionalized
narrative and arty death fixation make
it seem like some dumb, self-righteous
adolescent's first novel. Candor can be
illuminating; in Fosse's case, it's more
like pure laziness.

Wrong? Oh, nothing much. They were just
born. It seems odd that they have to pay with a
lifetime of hunger. The statistics are so crushing in
many parts of the world that even the cynics are
moved. And we're getting people to help these
children. Peace Corps Volunteers. Yes, the Peace
Corps. Remember us? We've been.quiet for a
while, but in case you've forgotten, we're alive and
well. And waiting for you. If you've got the commit-
ment, we'll give you the skills you need. You've
always said you wanted a meaningful career. Well,
our job specs won't lie to you. The hours are
tough. The pay is lousy. But you'll become a part
of a community and learn a new language, dis-
60 million child
bed wflhout any
lwonder whatt

cover a new culture. You'll learn more than you
teach. The impossible may take a little longer,
but it can happen, in small pieces. 2,000 wells
here. 50 schoolrooms there. A couple of hospi-
tals. Go ahead and tell these children that it's not
much. They won't believe you. Not the first time
a well comes in nor the last time. A field of beans
can be more rewarding than you can imagine.
The Peace Corps wants you. We need
thousands of you. Call toll free: 800-424-8580.
'Or write the Peace Corps, Box A,
Washington, D.C. 20525.
The Peace Corps
is alive and well.
ren were sent to
supper last night.
hey did. wrong?

Ron Ichikawa's


The haunting and poetic story of a young Japanese soldier stationed in Burma
during the final days of World War 11. Touched by the horror of the circum-
stances, he attempts to atone for the sins of war. Ichikawa's first interna-
tional success can be largely attributed to a photographic sensibility that is
able to find a melancholy beauty in the bleakest of circumstances. Japanese
with subtitles.
Sat.: The Ann Arbor Premiere of NEWSFRONT


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