Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Life is a Cabaret

My wife and I have been watching the AFI top 100 movies, and every once in a while we will come across a film that is surprising.

If you haven't seen "Cabaret" staring Liza Minnelli and directed by Bob Fosse, the great choreographer, then you probably think what we did about the film: that it was going to be a cute song-and-dance number. I mean, it has the song, "Life is a cabaret, old chum . . . life is a cabaret!" Turns out that this final song of the film is meant to be ironic.

This is an incredible film. At turns funny, haunting, sad, creepy, and disturbing, we get a good overview of Germany right as the Nazis are rising to power. But we are also getting a powerful symbol of America in Liza Minnelli's character (a representation still apt in my opinion -- which is one reason why this is still such a great film, and one everyone should watch), and also a symbol of Britain's position and situation in Michael York's character. We see the struggles of a young Jewish man who is hiding the fact that he is a Jew so he can succeed -- but then falls in love with a Jewess and has to decide if he will continue with the charade or not. There is also a brilliant handling of sexuality in this film, used to great effect when a very effeminate-looking young man who begins singing turns out to be a Nazi. Every song in the film is symbolic, but doesn't beat you over the head with the symbolism. And, while they were at it, they threw in the issue of abortion.

There is so much going on in this film, it's amazing. It would be worth it just to see the German cabaret scenes, which show how strange German culture could be at times -- but with everything else going on in the film as well, and how well it is done, this film truly is a masterpiece.
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