Meeting The Criterion: Criterion Christmas #4 ALL THAT JAZZ
It's a Criterion Christmas! I'll be using Meeting the Criterion as a convenient way of reminding you of many of the Criterion Collections great releases from the last year. Whether your Criterion Collection is organized by spine number, title or director there's a good chance you'll see some releases that are bound to end up on your must remember to get list.
Nominated for 9 Academy Awards All That Jazz (1979) was the next to last film made by the legendary creative Bob Fosse. I say creative rather than simply dancer, choreographer, director or writer, because over the course of his career he excelled in all those things. Those skills all came together here in a seemingly effortless blend of dramaturgy, truly spectacular song and dance numbers and satire.
Fosse conceived All That Jazz as a cautionary tale but it's often been misunderstood as a confessional one. It tells the tale of Joe Gideon, a man very like Fosse in professional demeanor and work ethic. Gideon is a workaholic, brilliantly gifted, but, and this is where the similarities largely end, he's also a supremely self-obsessed hedonist whose lifestyle has taken a heavy toll on his wife and preteen daughter. It's a lifestyle that has also destroyed his health. Confused by Fosses choice to create such a monstrous portrait in his own image, star Ann Reinking, who plays Gideon's mistress in the film, asked the director about it. Fosses response was provocative. By amping up the negative aspects of Gideon he would be able to drive home the point of story: narcissism.
Of course Fosse was helped a great deal by star Roy Scheiders masterclass performance, which humanized a thoroughly unlikeable character even as the story led him to a well deserved and predictably tragic end. Joe Gideon's wretched excess, from his rampant infidelities, to his pill popping and booze swilling create the need to lie about everything, especially himself, leading to the films incredible denouement, a lengthy musical death bed hallucination. By this point in All That Jazz viewers will likely be rooting for Joe to have undergone some sort of redemption, some breakout revelation. But, instead, Fosse uses the moment to reinforce the theme. This is not a film about a man who breaks out. He chooses to see himself in the sorts of terms that leave him with little to do but rationalize his despair. By the time Gideon is prostrate on a stage being directed by himself through a show-stopping reworking of Bye Bye Love it's impossible to see him as anything other than a sad mix of things that deserve damnable judgement and pity even as you're hoping for a metaphysical encore.
Gideons desperate need for attention and terror of intimacy are the hallmarks of his journey and in this he becomes a sort of satirized everyman.This uncomfortable reflection of the narcissism in all of us is provocative to say the least. If you can't relate to the neurotic terror of death and shame that drives Gideon then perhaps you are as big a narcissist as he is. We don't all self-destruct like Joe but we all run like hell from our own deaths, from suffering and too often from facing the truths about ourselves that might set us free if we would only share the stage with those who love us most and see us most clearly. All That Jazz is, like a Fosse himself, successful in a myriad of ways emerging as something that can't be simply categorized
The extras on this blu-ray are outstanding and damn near qualify it as the release of the year for Criterion. You get a new 4K digital restoration, with 3.0 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray. The film itself features an audio commentary from editor Alan Heim and selected-scene audio commentary by actor Roy Scheider. Other extras include a new interviews with Heim and Fosse biographer Sam Wasson, as well as a lengthy conversation between actors Ann Reinking and Erzsebet Foldi, who delivered a fabulous film debut performance in the film as Gideon's daughter Michelle.
Fosse himself is present in a myriad of ways. The first is a pair of interviews from 1981 and 1986 as well as an episode of the talk show Tomorrow from 1980, featuring him and choreographer Agnes de Mille. Portrait of a Choreographer, a 2007 documentary on Fosse and on set footage round out an exceptional effort to make sure his voice was included. The music is heard as well. a 2007 documentary, The Soundtrack: Perverting the Standards and a 2007 interview with George Benson, about his song "On Broadway," which opens the film provide ample food for thought about the.Finally there's a booklet featuring an essay by critic Hilton Als.
ALL THAT JAZZ Spine number 724 available in DUAL FORMAT BLU-RAY AND DVD.