A self-destructive theater director chronicles his life on his deathbed.
All That Jazz (1979)
Directed by Bob Fosse
Written by Robert Alan Arthur and Bob Fosse
Starring Roy Scheider, Jessica Lange, Ann Reinking,
Leland Palmer, Cliff Gorman, Deborah Geffner, John Lithgow
Oscar Wins - Best Art Direction, Best Costume Design,
Best Film Editing, Best Original Score (Ralph Burns)
Oscar Nominations - Best Picture, Best Actor (Roy Scheider),
Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best Cinematography
I'm not one for artsy films, and All That Jazz is essentially director Bob Fosse telling his own life story using a barely coherent narrative and a lot of metaphorical imagery. Despite a strong performance from Roy Scheider as Fosse stand-in Joe Gideon, All That Jazz is barely a movie. I don't understand the praise this film has gotten for all these years. It's hard to follow, abandons its story halfway through, and leaves so many threads untied. Frankly, it's a complete mess.
Scheider excels as Joe Gideon, a drug-addicted, womanizing Broadway director who is casting for a big new show he's working on. He's got a rocky relationship with his daughter, and he's constantly cheating on his girlfriend. But Scheider makes him likable, despite all this. As the casting continues, and Joe's health worsens, the film slowly begins to devolve into a series of vague short musical numbers that are supposed to represent Joe's declining health as he dies in a hospital. Basically, this film starts out as a conventionally-told story and just sort of becomes an artsy, interpretive mess of scenes. It's weird and off-putting if you're not into that sort of thing. But the pageantry is stellar. I gotta give credit to the production designers. It looks gorgeous.
All That Jazz is considered a 70's classic because Bob Fosse is considered a legend. And that may be true, but that doesn't automatically make his own autobiographical musical art film a masterpiece. This film is a forgettable musical slideshow that doesn't really have anything that important to say, beyond don't abuse prescription medication and sleep with the entire chorus line.