I don’t know what it is about my personality that makes me compatible with people who love musical theater, but somehow, the universe keeps throwing them my way. I’m left smiling awkwardly when my new friends gush about Hamilton, or the latest Funny Girl revival, pretending the very notion of a live song-and-dance routine doesn’t make me shudder internally. However, there’s one thing that helps me cross the entertainment chasm, and that’s movies about live theater. Now those, I love!! From The Goodbye Girl to Waiting for Guffman to Center Stage, to this week’s Cinema Sips pick All That Jazz (Disc), I can’t get enough backstage drama and tights. Finally, common ground with the Playbill crowd!
I love a good “puttin’ on a show” plot as much as the next person, but All That Jazz takes the trope to a new and exciting level. In this gritty, sexy, Dexedrine-fueled world of stage and screen, director/choreographer Joe Gideon (Roy Scheider) struggles to balance his turbulent love life, a new Broadway show, and feature film editing without dropping dead of a heart attack. The fact that he’s seen talking to the Angel of Death (played by a luminous Jessica Lange) in various dream sequences tells us he’s already on his way. This semi-autobiographical film from director/choreographer Bob Fosse asks us to consider how much can be piled on a person’s plate before they collapse under the weight of responsibility. This movie gets me thinking a lot about the inevitability of death, and how we humans have to balance making the most of our time here while ensuring we have that time in the first place. Joe slogs along, shooting that Visine in his eyes, taking that morning shower, popping that pill, announcing “It’s showtime, folks!” because to do the alternative is unthinkable. His body will give up before his mind or his will, and rest comes only to the dead.
Leave it to Joe Gideon to imagine that Death comes in the form of a beautiful woman in a nightclub. I’m still not sure about the frothy white getup she’s wearing (I might have opted for something more “Halston”), but I’m willing to go along with the surrealist costume because it inspires this week’s cocktail. While watching All That Jazz, I recommend drinking a classic White Lady.
2 oz Plymouth gin
½ oz Cointreau
¾ oz lemon juice
¼ oz simple syrup
1 egg white
Combine all ingredients in a shaker without ice. Dry shake for about thirty seconds, add ice, then shake again for an additional thirty seconds. Strain into a chilled coupe glass, and garnish with a lemon twist.
In case I haven’t fully sold this movie yet, All That Jazz’s fictional play NY/LA has one of the sexiest dance sequences ever committed to film. A big part of that is the lighting and cinematography, and frankly, I just don’t see it working from the cheap seats in the back. The camera enables us to be up close and personal with these bodies, both strong and fragile at the same time, putting it all into perspective. There’s no business like show business to make you realize that every day you’re still alive, putting on that performance, is a miracle. Cheers!