Loosely defined, Bob Fosse’s Cabaret is like an oratorio in the process of mutation; the composition reveres as well as enhances Christopher Isherwood’s stories as timepiece via commentarial music and it uses action without melodramatic intrusion. Not suggesting it isn’t theatrical; it’s that the action doesn’t matter nearly so much as the picture’s overall raunchy arrangement. Fosse made a mess of Sweet Charity (a terrible mix of too much Shirley MacLaine, story antiquation, displacing editing, noxious male casting) and he didn’t want to ruin the savory malignance this time out because of convention. His shrewdness is in reformulating the form, while at the same time staying true to the flavor of musicals. John Simon wrote most cruelly of Liza Minnelli: “Plain, ludicrously rather than pathetically plain, is what she is. That turnipy nose overhanging a forward-gaping mouth and hastily retreating chin, that bulbous cranium with eyes as big and as inexpressive as saucers; those are the appurtenances of a clown...And given a matching figure—desperately uplifted breasts, waist indistinguishable from hips—you cannot play Sally Bowles. Especially if you have no talent.” Debatable if Minnelli has real talent, and a given she isn’t Sally as Isherwood describes, but it is her gamine green nails grotesquery, her weepy clownishness, her fag-hagginess that works for her here. (After all, Sally is a queen’s vision of a woman as entertainment.) The three gents—Michael York, Helmut Griem and Fritz Wepper—look so much alike they could be different versions of themselves. (They remind you of the smoothies in The Garden of the Finzi-Continis.)
Text COPYRIGHT © 2005 RALPH BENNER All Rights Reserved.