2018 Blind Spot Series: Cabaret


What I knew going on: I had seen this on stage. 

In 1930's Berlin, an English man, Brian (Michael York) befriends a cabaret singer Sally (Liza Minnelli) when he moves in next door. They form a friendship, all while Nazism starts seeping into the world around them.

I've seen this performed by local theater groups before and I suppose I never really took the time to think about how different the film would be. It's a very loose adaptation, though to be fair it's been over a decade since I saw this on stage. 

I think the balance of being a musical while including something as ominous as what is to come with WWII is very interesting. It paints a layer of extra sadness over everything. While Sally and Brian pay no mind to any of it at first, all I could think of is how drastically their world will be different in a few years time. That said, sometimes I wish they had gone a bit more in depth with the subplot between Fritz and Natalia.

The musical numbers were stunning and engaging and Liza Minnelli is an absolute star. She definitely inherited her mother's vocal talents and Sally's facade was fascinating to watch. Though honestly, she's so good that no one else in the film can really keep up with her. 

I kind of yearned for more of a footnote after the end. Did Brian and Sally ever meet again? What happens to Fritz and Natalia? Those are questions the film didn't need to answer but ones I enjoyed pondering when it was done. 

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B+

Memorable quote: "God damn it, I'm gonna have a baby." - Sally (Liza Minnelli)


17 comments:

  1. An incredible film and truly one of the best musicals I had ever seen.

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  2. I've never seen this one, either, but I did recently find a cheap DVD copy that I bought. I plan on doing it for next year's Blind Spot Challenge.

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  3. So glad you liked this! It's certainly one of the greatest movie musicals of all time - I especially love that the songs they cut from the musical stayed in as underscoring in a lot of the scenes (they listen to one on a record at one point). Liza Minnelli and Joel Grey are two of my favorite wins in their respective categories. I don't even know how Joel Grey does what he does as the Emcee. I also don't think that Michael York and Marisa Berenson get enough credit for how good they are in this.

    Fosse was a goddamn genius. The editing and cinematography in this are just BEYOND. And it was only his second film! Just incredible.

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    1. I think it's amazing that Grey won because I imagine nowadays that role would be overlooked. I recognized one of the songs on the radio. I like that they used them in that way. It's a nice bone to throw to fans.

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  4. If you read about Berlin in the 1920’s and early 30’s, it really captures that time period and the freeness the arts had at that time. The Weimar Republic really was quite amazing for the Cabarets of that time, along with film and the arts but, unfortunately, it had so much freedom, it did not see the evil that arose within it. I really liked this film for showcasing this time and, my feeling, is that Natalia & Fritz do not survive or they made it out by 1933. I saw this live in 2003 in NYC with John Stamos as the MC...he was quite good actually and Molly Ringworm

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    1. That's an interesting cast. I can't picutre Stamos as the M.C lol.

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    2. I know! Neither could I until he came out and he was the best in the cast!

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  5. I wish I could say that I loved this film but I don't. There is some fine filmmaking involved but try though I might, and I've watched the film multiple times at different junctures to see if my opinion has changed, I just can't warm to the picture.

    Fosse had a very cinematic eye, even though this was only his second time in the director chair he had choreographed at least five major musicals-including White Christmas and Kiss Me Kate-before so he understood the medium. Part of my issue is that I find the characters mostly a repellent bunch so spending time with them isn't the pleasure a musical should be.

    Liza's a powerhouse and in a strange way I think it's a weakness to the original intention of the material. As written Sally Bowles is at best a second rate talent in a low-down dive hurtling towards destruction but then Liza ascends the stage, a life force who blows the roof off with Maybe This Time or Cabaret. It's surely my own thing and the film would have been much less without her. Of the nominees that year I do think she should have won. Personally I would have preferred to see Tuesday Weld take the Oscar for Play It As It Lays but she went unnominated so the prize went to the right person.

    You might want to give the '55 film I Am a Camera a look. It was based on Isherwood's Berlin Stories (he's a major character-he seems to have morphed into Brian in Cabaret-in the film played Laurence Harvey). It had originally been a Broadway play with Julie Harris as Sally and she recreates the role in the film which also co-stars Shelley Winters as Natalia. It was quite reworked and reshaped into Cabaret but the bones are there. It provides an interesting contrast.

    It's on YouTube if you're interested, here the link:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=87WPy8zRXCs

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    1. I'll have to check that out, thanks for the link!

      I read on IMDb that the writer thought Liza was too talented to play Sally too, but I thought it worked well.

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    2. I'm in a weird place with this. I hate musicals with performers cast for name value who can't carry the load of the songs (Russell Crowe in Les Miz comes to mind) and Liza makes Cabaret's song live, there really was no one at the time who could have equaled her, but the fact that Sally is clearly supposed to be a deluded loser of mediocre gifts is the one instance where a minorly talented performer would have made sense. I know that the stage play is usually cast that way.

      But Liza was white hot at this interval having already garnered a Best Actress nomination for The Sterile Cuckoo followed by a critically praised performance as a burn victim in Tell Me You Love Me, Junie Moon (both worth checking out) and a wildly successful concert career-documented by Fosse the same year as Cabaret in the award magnet special Liza with a Z-so her bankability was needed on something that was seen as risky. And as I said the fact that she's too talented for the role only seems to bother me.

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    3. I'm not sure they could've sold this to general audiences with a mediocre talent though. I think they would want someone who was a gifted singer. I see both sides, how Sally is supposed to be just okay, but at the same time I can see the studios wanting someone who was a star to sell this.

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  6. Nice review! Cabaret is one of my favorites. Liza is an absolute showstopper It's an interesting contrast between the cabaret and the realities of what's going on around them. I'd love to see a live version of it sometime.

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    1. I'd like to see a professional version of it. I just saw a summer theater type production, but it was still enjoyable.

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  7. Sorry I missed this Brit, I started a new job and lost track of social media things 😭 Cabaret is really so good, I'm happy you liked it. Liza is amazing, she's definitely a true star! I'd love to have seen the live version with Emma Stone and Alan Cumming.

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    1. No worries, life happens! I'm glad you liked this too.

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