All That Jazz (1979)

Directed by Bob Fosse

I first saw All That Jazz something like 23 or 24 years ago. Honestly, I remember little of it – just a vague notion of the images, the dancers, and the face of Roy Scheider. What I remember most, I suppose, is the hype that accompanied it and, more particularly, how some friends raved about it.

Almost a quarter of a century later, I watched it again and I have to say it kinda sucks.

It’s a movie that is more interesting than it is entertaining and what makes it interesting has nothing to do with dramatic merit. It holds some fascination in what it describes (the main character) and that someone would make a movie like this about himself.

It’s an exercise in self-loathing, or so it seems to me. Scheider plays the character of Joe, who is essentially Bob Fosse, the director.

Joe is by and large a self-indulgent prick whose numerous failings, betrayals and lies are forgiven by everyone around him because, well, he’s Joe and Joe’s an artistic genius in the world of dance, you know, and artists of genius are to be allowed this sort of indulgence because they carry the heavy burden of – have I said this yet? – artistic genius.

What a crock of shit. Apparently Fosse recognized this too and made an entire movie about it.

Overall, the film is tedious because it indulges in this homage to low self-esteem. It does, however, have some brilliant dance numbers which lessen the boring factor somewhat. But by and large they are not sufficient to elevate this movie into anything particularly engaging.

And, nice moments of relief though they are, they also extend the film to over two hours, which is way beyond the endurance level.

I don’t know what we were thinking back in 1979.

(Originally published in 2003.)

Leave a Reply