Saturday, 20 May 2017

Freeview film of the day : saturday 20th of May

Cabaret (1972 118min.) [BBC2 12.20am sunday]

Bob Fosse's Oscar-winning musical drama, starring Liza Minnelli, Joel Grey and Michael York. A love affair develops between cabaret singer Sally Bowles and naive young Englishman Brian Roberts in the decadent Berlin café society of the 1930s, against a background of the gradual rise of German fascism.

The vast majority of musicals leave even hardened tough guys grinning like loons or weeping buckets. This one is atypical in that it leaves you slightly stunned and shocked.

Is a musical really supposed to contain a history lesson and a warning to future generations on the dangers of inaction ?

Based on a novella by Christopher Isherwood ("I Am A Camera"), Bob Fosse's film is, on the surface at least, about the entangled love affairs of the performers and patrons at Berlin's Kit Kat Klub during the early years of the Weimar Republic.

"Divine Decadence" is the key for the performers and patrons of the club; risque song and dance numbers, "Money Makes The World Go Round" ' "Two Ladies", are their stock in trade.
Offstage, pills are popped, booze is guzzled and boys and girls (and boys and boys) indulge in all manner of sexual shennanigans.

Yet looming over all of this is the inexorable rise of the Nazi Party. Notice in the cabaret scenes how the number of Nazi and SS uniforms in the audience slowly grows during the film. The performers know exactly which way the wind is blowing and are street smart enough to know that this new audience holds the key to their futures (if they have one).

There are two lifetime best turns : Liza Minnelli as Sally Bowles, the American ex-pat singer caught up in this madness and kept in place by romantic dreams of love and stardom and Joel Grey, sinister yet cool as the nameless MC of the club. He won an Oscar for his troubles and then pissed his career away in ever less meaningful roles in films and (eventually) TV. A tragic shame.

The outstanding moment for me is the beer garden scene about two thirds of the way through. A (very) young Nazi Youth member begins to sing "Tomorrow Belongs To Me" and slowly the tune is taken up by more and more of the patrons, all of whom, it's revealed as the camera slowly pulls back, are dressed in Nazi regalia. It leaves the old Germans in attendence shuffling their feet and shaking their heads at the madness around them and the audience open mouthed at the sheer bravura brilliance of the scene's construction and execution.

8 Oscar wins for a film that is a visual parallel to Pastor Neilor's famous warning on the dangers of doing nothing in the face of evil.
A truly remarkable and courageous film.

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