Movie Name: All That Jazz
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Release Date(s): December 20, 1979
MPAA Rating: R
Joe Gideon (Roy Scheider) is driven. He’s on the verge of releasing his movie The Stand-Up while trying to direct a major Broadway musical. Unable to feel like he’s completed either project and with mounting pressures involving his family and his girlfriend, Gideon is on the fast track to a breakdown…and with the pressure taking over, could the death be closing in?
Directed by Bob Fosse (who also helped write it), All That Jazz is a biographical musical drama which tells a fictionalized account of Fosse’s life. The movie was released to critical acclaim and won Academy Awards for Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Best Costume Design, Best Film Editing, and Best Original Song Score with nominations for Best Picture, Best Actor (Scheider), Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Cinematography. The film was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress in 2001. The film also received a remastered Criterion release (Criterion #724).
Bob Fosse has a real style and after the commercial, financial, and critical success of Cabaret, he had a lot to live up to. Gideon is Fosse and the play and musical are Lenny and Chicago…both of which were met with mixed reviews upon their release. All That Jazz takes Fosse’s style and applies it to his life with interesting results.
The movie’s format was compared to 8 ½ which Fosse did use as its basis. It has a little bit of non-linear storytelling and overlapping dialogue and scripting that makes it different than a straightforward biopic. Obviously with the end of the film, it isn’t a true biopic, but it is still hard to not call it one since the film echoes events of Fosse’s life in most other areas.
Roy Scheider gives it his all in a role that almost went to many other actors. Richard Dreyfuss, Gene Hackman, and Jack Nicholson were all names attached to the role. There are a lot of great supporting actors in the film with people like Leland Palmer and Ann Reinking playing the women in Gideon’s life while Jessica Lange plays the angel of death. Ben Vereen helps Scheider with the closing number. John Lithgow, C.C.H. Pounder, and Wallace Shaw also all have small roles.
The movie looks great. As mentioned, Fosse has a real style and the best aspects of Cabaret are rolled into some of the numbers in this film. You can see Chicago developing in the musical numbers and there are some great uses of the stage. I was rather surprised because I thought the movie was going to be more of a musical, but the numbers are less than I expected.
All That Jazz was a surprising watch because a lot of people (myself included) went into with some preconceived notions especially now in an age when biopics are pretty standard fare. All That Jazz takes a different approach to telling the story of a life by allowing the director to tell his own life’s ending. Ironically enough, Fosse did end up dying from a heart attack in 1987…life imitating art or art imitating life?