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USA 1972
Directed by
Bob Fosse
128 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4 stars


Set in Berlin the early 193Os, Cabaret is the story of Sally Bowles (Liza Minnelli), a self-styled starlet and singer at the Kit-Kat Club with grand ambitions to make the big time. Her wicked ways are observed by the rather naive young Englishman Brian Roberts (Michael York), a variant of Fitzgerald's Nick Carraway, who valiantly tries to save Sally from herself.

Although not as able to shock (abortion was not a subject heard in mainstream cinema of the time) as when originally released, this adaptation of the hit Broadway musical, based on John van Druten's play, I Am A Camera, which was filmed in 1955, itself based on the Christopher Isherwood autobiographical novel Goodbye To Berlin is still one of the most iconic films of the 1970s, its polymorphous sexuality and taste for fin de siecle decadence. like Performance (1970)  well exemplifying the Zeitgeist.

Oscar winners Joel Grey and Liza Minnelli are outstanding in the cabaret numbers but ultimately the film's success depends on the great songs by Fred Ebbs and John Kander, that, unlike most musicals are seamlessly woven into the narrative, rather than breaking away from it. Even more exceptionally for the genre the film itself stands up as a dramatic whole and an economical representation of the Nazi phenomenon and the privileged world it would destroy, although, perhaps due to Michael York's characteristic woodenness, more so than his character's awkwardness, the scenes between Brian, Sally and Max (Helmut Griem) tend to lack zest and hobble proceedings. Unfortunately, for the film could have done with more, five songs were cut from the stage production and only appear in the film as incidental background music.

Fosse won the Best Director Oscar and the film also took home prizes for its cinematography, sound, editing, art direction and scoring (somewhat inconsistently The Godfather took out Best Picture).




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