All That Jazz, Blu-ray (1979/2014)

by | Sep 6, 2014 | DVD & Blu-ray Video Reviews

All That Jazz, Blu-ray (1979/2014)

Director: Bob Fosse
Cast: Roy Scheider, Ann Reinking, Jessica Lange, Ben Vereen
Studio: 20th Century Fox/ The Criterion Collection 724 (1 Blu-ray & 2 DVDs) [8/26/14]
Video: 1.85:1 for 16:9 1080p color
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 3.0 (three-channel), DD 2.0
Subtitles: English
Extras: Audio commentary track with editor Alan Heim, Roy Scheider commentary track on some scenes, New interviews with Heim and Fosse biographer Sam Wasson, New conversation bet. Ann Reinking and Ersebet Foldi, Bob Fosse and Agnes de Mille on 1980 NYC TV talk show, Fosse interviews from 1981 & ’86, On-set footage, “Portrait of a Choreographer” – 2007 documentary on Fosse, “The Soundtracks: Perverting the Standards” – 2007 documentary about the film’s music, George Benson interview about his song “Broadway” – 2007. Printed illustrated booklet with essay by critic Hilton Als.
Length: 123 minutes
Rating: *****

This masterpiece stands up extremely well though 35 years old. And the fascinating Criterion extras are almost as interesting as the first Blu-ray version of the film itself. They search everywhere for useful bonus content, and one of the many here is a wonderful, very revealing Fosse interview by Gene Shalit.  Many people in film and writings have attended their own funerals, but Bob Fosse really pulled out all the stops and staged the grand finale of his own show with an operatic style that must be seen to be believed. The main character here—which at least at the start Fosse insisted wasn’t him, even though the address on the bottle of Dexedrine he keeps swallowing has his true home address printed on it—is actor Roy Scheider. Scheider, a bit more handsome than Fosse, shines in this greatest role of his career, and beautifully portrays the life of this great choreographer and director with a unique and readily identifiable style. It is a brilliant filmic semi-autobiography.

While Fosse was preparing Chicago for Broadway he was also editing his film on Lenny Bruce, and that is shown in the film. He chain-smokes, pops dexedrine, and busily philanders with cute chorus girls who catch his eye. The scene where his ex-wife dances around him in the studio while telling him the truth of what he has done is a highlight of the film. Finally, he breaks down and finds himself in the hospital, where the doctor tells his young daughter he is there due to “exhaustion.” Then comes the most amazingly theatrical, show-biz style, extended death scene in film history. Editor Heim mentions that the producer or someone in charge insisted he edit out the “chest spreader” closeup when the lead character has his heart operation, but after that person left, Heim put it back in. The scene with his ex-wife, girlfriend and daughter riding atop the white funeral station wagon into the offstage mist is not to be missed. Then if the scenes with all the Busby Berkeley-style dancers around his hospital bed were not enough, the film ends on a long very show-biz sequence with entertainer Ben Vereen, on the song “I Think I’m Going to Die.” (Much of the hospital-scene idea was lifted later by the BBC-TV series The Singing Detective.)

—John Sunier

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