Allied Artists Pictures | Release Date: February 13, 1972
Universal acclaim based on 57 Ratings
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SpangleMar 20, 2017
After not liking All That Jazz, my expectations for Cabaret were realistic. I knew that it was possible Bob Fosse's directing style was simply not something I was programmed to enjoy. The end result is a film that seems inconclusive.After not liking All That Jazz, my expectations for Cabaret were realistic. I knew that it was possible Bob Fosse's directing style was simply not something I was programmed to enjoy. The end result is a film that seems inconclusive. Definitely more up my alley than All That Jazz, Cabaret is still not a film I would quite say I liked. More-or-less, it is an above average musical (in my books) that has some positives and some drawbacks that leave it being a pretty muddled and mixed bag at the end of the day.

First, the negatives. Though La La Land has come under fire for its weak or bad singing from Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, it is abundantly clear to myself that both Stone and Gosling turn in better singing performances than Liza Minnelli and especially Joel Grey in Cabaret. Neither impress, instead turning in bland performances of bland songs such as "Money, Money" or "Two Ladies" (for Grey). Yes, both are legends - especially Minnelli - but neither really struck me as being worthy of the praise they receive for this film on the singing side of things. Minnelli is largely ineffectual and lacks the punch needed for these musical numbers, instead just feeling quite robotic and missing the gravitas necessary to pull of the songs. Fortunately for her, this is not all her fault as some of the song performed in the cabaret are just very bad. Some have great lyrics and melodies, other are just overtly risque for no other value. The former are exclusively songs with Minnelli. The latter are reserved for Grey who is just flat-out grating to watch. He is too exuberant and boisterous. His singing is comically bad throughout and seems to be played out for laughs with his weird lip movements than for any actual singing ability. If people say Gosling is bad in La La Land, then Grey needs his due for being a bad singer in Cabaret. By the end of the film, however, my favorite song was the one not including either of them and given that they were the stars and the main attractions on the musical side, this seems quite alarming.

Second, the editing is quite bad. Just as in All That Jazz, Fosse goes cut happy at points. Jumping rapidly from one image to the next, the film just turns into a blur at parts. While it is supposed to represent the speed at which everything is occurring, it unfortunately has the side effect of rendering those moments entirely unwatchable and distracting. All That Jazz had the same issue with these rapid cuts that distract more than they enhance. It is clearly a style employed by Fosse that simply does not work in my view. While not too plentiful, the moments are bad enough and occur often enough to be worth mentioning. Other than these, the editing is fine. Nothing great and nothing awful. It cuts when it should and is quite cohesive as a final product, but those few moments unfortunately leave a lot to be desired.

In the mixed, not a pro and not a con, section we have the film's sexuality. Openly confronting society's reservations about open sexuality, LGBT persons, and various other sexual taboos, Cabaret is a crucially important film. It shows that those who cross dress, are trans, are gay, are bi, or are lesbians, are just people too. They want to have fun, they cry, they want to love, and they want to laugh all the same. Cabaret, for this, is boundary shattering. It is impressively open about these topics to the point that it may be too much. Mind you, I am not saying it is too risque or that I am a prude. Rather, it feels as though the film tries too hard to push these boundaries. It includes so many topics and, by the end, it feels like the film is just sitting there and judging the audience for not accepting like one of those SNL sketches about high school theatre with the film screaming out, "This is normal and your world view is small." While I agree with its message of acceptance against its backdrop of the rise in Nazism, it feels like it pours it on a bit thick.

On the positive side of things, some songs really stand out. Though I criticized Minnelli and Grey before, allow me to walk some of those comments back in praising some of their songs. For Grey, "If You Could See Her" is beautifully sung, catchy, and incredibly entertaining. It is also thematically relevant with a great take on accepting a person for who they are and not just judging a book by its cover. For Minnelli, "Mein Herr" and "Maybe This Time" are real standouts. The former features solid singing, but tremendous choreography by Fosse. The latter is gorgeously written with a great mournful and longing delivery by Minnelli on the vocal side of things. Yet, bar none, the highlight of the film is "Tomorrow Belongs to Me". Absolutely chilling to watch be sung by a boy in a Nazi uniform and joined in by similar white people, the sequence is brilliantly put together by Fosse and haunting. The singing and lyrics are terrific, but the moment it signifies is the real highlight and shows the perfect blend of music
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