ALL THAT JAZZ (Bob Fosse, 1979, USA) Joe Gideon is a fictional Broadway Director who must make a final accounting of his overindulgences and infidelities and choreograph his exit from the world’s stage. Director Bob Fosse utilizes a Fellini-esque dramaturgy by birthing an imaginary twin, a self-centered alter ego whose pale reflection is a cipher concerning his own diminishing capacities and creativity.
Gideon is center stage in his dreamlike domain, beginning every day with a charge of Dexedrine and Alka- Seltzer as his past and present clash in a musical fugue. Fosse’s microcosm becomes a celluloid macrocosm, a reality where regrets and anxiety, creative frustration and exhaustion become the narrative’s nitrous fuel, powered by self-denials and judgments experienced by any who consider themselves human by default. Roy Scheider transcends mere caricature and empowers Gideon with a subtle humanity, his eyes revealing a sublime humility that contradicts his angular hawk-like visage.
The ubiquitous Gideon speaks to a surreal beauty as he relives his teenage years, his vanity split into thirds as he reflects on his youth where his past is staged like one of his performances. In the “real” world, he must fend off Producers whose task is to murder his inspiration by cutting his film and censoring his jazz dance routines. Like a shark, Gideon is always moving and sleekly evasive, searching for groupies to satisfy his insatiable hunger: though he is not oblivious to hurting those closest to him, his selfish contraindications override any sympathetic concerns.
Fosse’s adrenaline song and dance numbers are an element of the story that infuses Gideon’s abrasive spirit with genuine genius and pumps the narrative towards its apoptotic climax. The film eclipses the spotlight of most musicals by narrowing its divine liturgy upon the story: the music is a symptom of Gideon’s heartsick condition. The film becomes more pompous as Gideon struggles with the five phases of his terminal grief, magnificent visual and aural cues into the way he perceives the world and comes to terms with his death. Though the final act drags a bit too long, the theatrics slathered like heavy metal makeup, Scheider’s bold performance saturates the saturnine elements of Gideon’s emotional transformation: he goes musically into that good night. Final Grade: (B+)