With the possible exception of 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (1968), this Fellini-influenced tragicomic musical was probably the most outre work to date when it was nominated for a Best Picture Oscar.
Joe Gideon (Roy Scheider) is a famous New York choreographer who plays as hard as he works. He pops pills, drinks, smokes, and maniacally drives his dancers and himself in preparation for a new musical, while simultaneously editing a movie he directed and trying to keep his daughter, ex-wife,
longtime lover, Broadway investors--and his own rampant libido--satisfied. The chores exhaust him; as a result he has a heart attack and cardiac surgery, and begins to hallucinate wild musical numbers archly metaphoric of his own life.
The dancing is frenzied, the dialogue piercing, the photography superb, and the acting first-rate, with non-showman Scheider an illustrious example of casting against type. Parallels between Fosse's own life and that of his onscreen alter ego are clear: Fosse was editing his film LENNY while
rehearsing a show, then he suffered a heart attack, recovered, and after more stage success, made this movie. He cast his former lover Ann Reinking as Joe Gideon's fading flame, and basically dissected the life of a flip, doomed, dysfunctional antihero who alternately evokes sympathy, then
repulses with his sexual addiction and constant need for ego-gratification. ALL THAT JAZZ is great-looking but not easy to watch; Fosse's indulgent vision at times approaches sour self-loathing, and nothing like the explicit open-heart surgery had been seen on mainstream American screens, let
alone the morbid song-and-dance routines in an operating theater.
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