It’s showtime, folks!
All That Jazz
All That Jazz plays its hand in the title sequence: Some studio information flashes on screen as an orchestra warms up. Then Roy Scheider, as director Bob Fosse’s alter ego, Joe Gideon, counts in the band. The words All That Jazz light up the screen, spelled out by hundreds of emblazoned light bulbs, with all the glitz of ’70s Broadway. Then the bulbs burn out and the orchestra sputters to a halt—just like Gideon will do over the course of the movie.
You wouldn’t know that if you hadn’t seen the film before, but who cares? This very odd, highly watchable, 1979 musical comedy—about the downward spiral and death of a brilliant, funny, self-loathing, womanizing, alcoholic, workaholic prick of a choreographer and film director—is just the kind of self-indulgent movie that should be wretched, but actually is great fun.
Granted, Gideon doesn’t sound like the kind of person you want to spend two hours with, but we’ve all been there, right? Remember the times you knew you were doing something really stupid—calling Girl X, drinking too much, blowing off family for work—but went ahead and did it anyway? Congratulations! You and Gideon have something in common. And though it must have seemed like odd casting at the time, Scheider’s terrific as the aforementioned prick, a guy who tries only too late to change his ways.
From the razzle-dazzle dance opening, set to George Benson’s “On Broadway,” to the psychological mumbo-jumbo, to the pitch-perfect scenes of Gideon’s heart troubles, to the slightly flat Jessica-Lange-is-death allegory, to the final image of Gideon getting zipped up in a body bag, this movie is a treat.
Wait. Death, a treat? Sure. A bittersweet one. Because there’s no business like show business, especially when you go out leaving a good-looking corpse.