Every once in a great while a film gets made that you hold so sacred to yourself, that you feel it was made specifically for your eyes only. Bob Fosse’s ALL THAT JAZZ is a full out tour de force MASTERPIECE. For me, it’s the finest film ever made, I completely and utterly adore this film. Like any great piece of art, it can affect its audience in a multitude of ways, and mean different things to different people. Over my decade long obsession with the film, I’ve come to see and apply many lessons the film teaches. The most important lesson this film preaches is simply, the heavy price one pays for narcissism.
I cannot think of a film that displays more audacity and self-indulgence in such a showy and brilliant way. The casting of Roy Scheider is the most brilliant casting move in the history of cinema. Roy Scheider as Joe Gideon is Bob Fosse. From the facial hair, to the chain smoking, right down to the address on the bottle of his prescription pills in his bathroom. It’s all Fosse. The film follows Gideon navigating his professional life; editing his latest film THE COMEDIAN (LENNY) and reinventing a Broadway play (CHICAGO) under a tight deadline. All the while Gideon is co-raising his daughter (Erzsebet Foldi) with his muse and ex-wife (the remarkable Leland Palmer), and constantly cheating on his current muse and girlfriend (Ann Reinking, who was Fosse’s real life mistress and fierce champion of his legacy). Folded into all this, Gideon’s personal and professional life, he is having a sit down conversation that stretches the duration of the film with the painfully beautiful Angel of Death played by Jessica Lange.
Gideon is the contemporary version of Sisyphus, constantly pushing that boulder up a hill, only for it to roll back down to the bottom again. He cannot, and will not compromise with anyone, even himself. He constantly pushes himself physically, mentally, and creatively. An entire dissertation could be written about this film, it is impossible to sum up the importance and greatness of this film in a few paragraphs. Everything in this film is phenomenally executed. All the performances in the film are landmark career highs, the production and costume design is perfect, and the editing in this film by Alan Heim showcases the best cut film ever made.
The entire film is perfect, but where my undying excitement and admiration for this film comes to a head is the final act, in particular the final scene. Gideon’s fever-dream send off to a musical performance of The Everly Brother’s BYE BYE LOVE sung by Ben Vereen and Roy Scheider in front of anyone of importance from Gideon’s life. This is cinema at its absolute finest.
There will never, ever be another Bob Fosse. There will certainly never be a film made that is so ingrained with its author like ALL THAT JAZZ. The film remains a cornerstone in not only the history of film, but in the history of art itself.