All That Jazz (1979)

Genres - Drama, Musical  |   Sub-Genres - Showbiz Drama, Musical Drama  |   Run Time - 123 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - R
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Review by Dan Jardine

Bob Fosse's not-so-thinly veiled autobiographical film is a viciously honest portrayal of the central character, Joe Gideon, a brilliant but deeply troubled and self-absorbed director/choreographer who has ongoing problems with drugs, alcohol, and fidelity. All That Jazz is a speed freak of a movie, flying by at breakneck pace, then screeching to a halt so the protagonist can indulge in some serious ruminations on death. The film takes regular detours into the surreal, as Jessica Lange's appearance as the stunningly beautiful personification of death hints at Gideon's self-destructive impulses. As his name suggests, Gideon has a bit of a God complex, and he views his work as a struggle to create something as beautiful as one of God's creations. It is difficult to tell if Fosse is apologizing for his boorish behavior or explaining it. Perhaps the film's most revealing line of dialogue is delivered by Gideon as he faces death "If I die, I'm sorry for all the bad things I did to you. And if I live, I'm sorry for all the bad things I'm gonna do to you." The film is a dazzling piece of eye (and ear) candy, full of brilliant dance sequences (the AirRotica sequence stands out), great music, and bizarre flights into the fantasy world in Gideon's head. The fanciful near-death experiences at the climax are an adrenaline-soaked showstopper, and Roy Scheider does the best work of his career. The film was nominated for nine Academy Awards and won four of them.