All That Jazz

January 28, 2012 9 Min Read

Review by: Christopher Bligh

Plot: What’s it about?

If the 1970’s started a trend amongst studios, it all got summed up with a quote, “If you can’t beat them, join them”. This is especially the case with Twentieth Century Fox. Amongst Oscar nominees, one such came in 1974 when Warner Brothers and Fox collaborated to make Irwin Allen’s The Towering Inferno. That went on to win three awards along with being one of the five contenders nominated for Best Picture. Other movies followed collaborating with Fox through 2 more decades resulting in Best Picture nominees (Titanic, Master and Commander). However, before the seventies came to an end, one unlikely alliance of Columbia and Fox collaborated to put Bob Fosse’s semi-autobiographical story to the big screen. A tale about life, death, sex, music and All That Jazz.

The early morning routine of Joe Gideon (Roy Scheider) is a unique one. A tape of classical music followed by some pills, some Alka-Seltzer, a shower, a cigarette with coughing in between, and the finishing touch of a look at the mirror and a wave proclaiming “It’s showtime, folks!!”. He lives a life of many addictions. He loves many women, even though he’s a father of a broken family and has a girlfriend (Ann Reinking). He putting together a show that goes right sometimes and puts the pressure on many times thanks to his ex-wife (Leland Palmer) having the lead. To top it off, he has a film about a comic that he doesn’t know if it stands a chance or not. Either way, he’s under a lot of stress and his addictions are about to haunt him in the worst way when a mysterious woman named Angelique (Jessica Lange) comes into his life and tempts him to the biggest push of all, the push of death.

Here is a movie that has a variety of genres yet the one that sticks out constantly is the musical genre. It’s funny, it’s serious, it’s tragic, it’s depressing, but most of all it’s quite entertaining. It’s the mixing of fantasy and reality through the eyes of Joe Gideon and no matter how hard he pushes himself, no matter how close to death he may be, he doesn’t focus on it too much and would rather see death the way he would like it done.

As the alter ego of Bob Fosse, Roy Scheider gives an unbelievable performance as Gideon, a choreographer who cares about his child, but’s never around. He loves his girlfriend, but he wants other women. He has a mild heart attack, but he keeps smoking. He is an unlikable but honest character that becomes likable thanks to Scheider’s work in this film.

The performances in the other roles are quite good and the music numbers and the music itself really move this movie to a wonderful level of excitement. The “On Broadway” audition process is infectious, “Take Off With Us” is erotic and mystifying on many levels and I’m a sucker for a good Peter Allen song every now and then and this film has a wonderful number with one involving Ann Reinking and Erzsebet Foldi.

The look of this movie is quite bright and striking and imaginitive with the many theatrical elements as well as the neon in Joe’s apartment. The movie is filled with quite a potpourri of things, some are had to take in and even though a rendezvous with death may not be a happy thing, it doesn’t mean it can’t be entertaining. All That Jazz is quite all of many things and a very hookable viewing experience for any moviegoer through the eyes of Bob Fosse.

Video: How does it look?

“It’s Showtime, folks!!”

All That Jazz is in it’s second widescreen incarnation in disc form and judging from the looks of things, Fox took good care of it’s print elements. It’s filmed in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio and the print comes off as clean and without any artifacts or scratches. The colors are vibrant and come to life wonderfully without bleeding or being oversaturated. The shimmy on the climax number and the conversations with Angelique don’t come off as too bright or too much and it’s balances out quite nicely. A very good transfer.

Audio: How does it sound?

The audio on All That Jazz seems a bit more fitting for a mono track then it does for a surround track. It is a movie of the seventies and most of the audio for those films was limited but this is one that needed to have the same vibrance as the print. It comes to life in spots and the dialogue comes across clear but the end result with the music and the effects (mostly in the center) is a bit underwhelming and calls for a better kind of digital track. This disc also has a French monaurial track along with English and Spanish subtitles.

Supplements: What are the extras?

Fox did an interesting thing in 2003 when they released films that appeared to have a bare bones release but in actuality had a healthy amount of extras and All That Jazz was no exception. Starting off, there is a screen-specific commentary track by Roy Scheider.

At the start we hear the track was recorded in 2001 and it starts at the audition. I learned something from the French Connection, A Decade Under the Influence and the Marathon Man DVD. On or off screen, Roy Scheider is great at chatting about the films that he’s worked on and ever since watching him interviewed on Bob Costas’ show many years ago, he’s a great interview subject. He continues that on this track as being a constantly interesting speaker talking about the struggles, the positive effects that it’s had on his career and little vignettes that could be an audio version of the show “Backstory”. It is a great track and even though it’s plagued by many gaps, that doesn’t take away from being involved with the movie at the same time as listening. Like The Paper Chase DVD, the commentary is screen specific and is indexed.

Next is five clips showing Bob Fosse at work from different angles shooting the big audition scene. It’s not every day that we get to see a great director at work and seeing these, though short, are a treat all in itself.

Along with that is some interviews with Roy Scheider that were done at the time during filming giving some comments that have already been discussed on the commentary with a few comments on the side as well. Not the usual sort of fluff but good.

Finally, there’s the film’s theatrical trailer that shows a few other angles of how the lights were going to be lit during the main titles. There are also the Fox Flix area which feature trailers for The Rose, Oklahoma, The Sound of Music, South Pacific, and the “Marilyn Monroe Diamond Collection”.

In conclusion, Bob Fosse’s All That Jazz is a unique mix that is all that it is cooked up to be to be discovered or rediscovered by any filmgoer and is a welcome affordable addition to any DVD collection.

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