CABARET. 1972. DIRECTED BY BOB FOSSE. STARRING LIZA MINNELLI, MICHAEL YORK, HELMUT GRIEM AND JOEL GREY. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
This Oscar-winning film has a lot of singing and dancing in it, but it’s no mere musical. Make no mistake about that. It’s a brilliant piece of story-telling with an underlying layer of dawning horror at its base in the form of the rise and rise of the Nazi party in 1930s Berlin.
Ah crap, now I’ll have the ‘musicals’ fans after me, haha. I meant no disrespect to fans of the genre. It’s just that some people tend to dismiss a film that has a musical element to it. But they shouldn’t dismiss this one, though. It’s bloody superb.
Well, you already know that it’s set in 1930s Berlin. Sally Bowles is an American singer/dancer who works nights in the Kit-Kat Club, a hub of sleazy-to-the-point-of-pornographic decadence. Sally drinks, smokes and talks way too much. She can be annoying at first but we find out soon enough that a lifetime of neglect by an emotionally careless father has moulded her into the walking disaster that we see on the screen before us.
I personally adore Sally. She’s a trembling mass of deadly addictions, insecurities and vulnerabilities. Anyone (male or female) who’s ever been pushed away by an emotionally distant parent will understand her constant, desperate need/search for love and approval. Yeah, she’s looking for love in all the wrong places and all her decisions turn out to be poor ones but so what…? She’s only human, just like the rest of us.
Liza Minnelli’s performance is literally show-stopping. (And Oscar-winning!) For those two hours or so, she really is Sally Bowles. Her big, heavily-made-up eyes and teeth are fabulous, by the way, and her singing voice is stupendous. I don’t really care for the hairstyle she’s made to sport but that’s only a small point. She is utterly sublime in this role and that’s that, haha. No arguments.
Anyway, into Sally’s chaotic existence comes the shy, reserved Englishman Brian Roberts, played by Michael York. Before long, Sally has drawn him inextricably into her magnetic whirlpool of a life. They sleep together, more or less at Sally’s insistence, although there’s a question mark over Brian’s sexuality. Michael teaches his German students to speak good English by day and he trails after Sally at the Kit-Kat Club by night.
Just as things seem to be going all right for the pair, Sally meets rich, hedonistic aristocrat, Baron Maximilian Von Heune. He’s married, a fact unknown to Sally but not to Brian, and he’s unstintingly generous to both Sally and Brian, but not just out of the goodness of his heart. He has an ulterior motive a mile wide.
He’s sexually attracted to both Sally and Brian, and he’s a man accustomed to getting what he wants. The infatuated Sally is easily bought and is quite obviously Max’s for the taking. But what about Brian? Will he fall for Max’s easy charms, and what will it mean for his and Sally’s relationship if he does? Only time (and the culmination of the film!) will tell…
The songs at the Kit-Kat Club are fantastically funny and wickedly bitchy and they come at exactly the right time in the film. For example, the hilarious TWO LADIES, a song about a man who services two women at the same time, clearly represents the Sally-Brian-Max love triangle.
The MC at the Kit-Kat Club is brilliantly played by Joel Grey. It’s an absolute powerhouse of a performance, too. He expertly portrays as sleazy a character as you’re ever likely to see treading the boards of an equally sleazy drinking establishment for bored, jaded people in search of kinky thrills. He’s never seen without his garish stage make-up or out of character. This only serves to reinforce the impact of the character he plays. You’ve never seen such a mischievously lecherous MC in your life before. Guaranteed. He won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for this role, by the way.
The backdrop to all of this is, as I said earlier, the terrifying rise to power of the Nazi party and the gradually pervasive feeling that it wasn’t safe any longer to be a Jew in Nazi Germany. Sally and Brian’s friend Fritz and the woman he loves, a German Jew, experience the fear and trepidation first-hand.
Check out the scene where the angel-faced, blonde-haired Hitler Youth starts a sing-along in the park, complete with a full-on ‘Heil Hitler!’ at the end of his warbling. It’ll chill the blood in your veins. The last thing we see before the credits roll is the image of a swastika. That’s what makes me say that this film is no ‘mere’ musical. When you watch this excellent movie for yourself, you’ll see what I mean. I hope you’ll love it as much as I do. Cheerio for now, dearies.
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based performance poet, novelist, film blogger, sex blogger and short story writer. She has given more than 200 performances of her comedy sex-and-relationship poems in different venues around Dublin, including The Irish Writers’ Centre, The International Bar, Toners’ Pub (Ireland’s Most Literary Pub), the Ha’penny Inn, Le Dernier Paradis at the Trinity Inn and The Strokestown Poetry Festival.
Her articles, short stories and poems have appeared in The Metro-Herald newspaper, Ireland’s Big Issues magazine, The Irish Daily Star, The Irish Daily Sun and The Boyne Berries literary journal. In August 2014, she won the ONE LOVELY BLOG award for her (lovely!) horror film review blog. She is addicted to buying books and has been known to bring home rain-washed tomes she finds on the street and give them a home.
She is the proud possessor of a pair of unfeasibly large bosoms. They have given her- and the people around her- infinite pleasure over the years. She adores the horror genre in all its forms and will swap you anything you like for Hammer Horror or JAWS memorabilia. She would also be a great person to chat to about the differences between the Director’s Cut and the Theatrical Cut of The Wicker Man. You can contact her at:
1) ‘… BY A WOMAN WALKING HER DOG…’
2) A WRITER’S JOURNEY
3) ANNA MEETS COUNT DRACULA
4) ANOTHER FIFTY REALLY RANDOM HORROR FILM REVIEWS TO DIE FOR…
5) CANCER BALLS
6) CATCH OF THE DAY
7) FIFTY FILTHY-DIRTY SEX-POEMS YOU MUST READ BEFORE I DIE.
8) FIFTY REALLY RANDOM HORROR FILM REVIEWS TO DIE FOR…
9) THE DEVIANTS
10) VISITING DAY