Bob Fosse Stanley Kauffmann - Essay

Stanley Kauffmann

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[Fosse] has handled Cabaret like a smart Broadway musical director: always bright, always intent—not on authenticity but on keeping one step ahead of the audience's jadedness. He can do it….

Unlike the Broadway version, the musical elements are split off from the rest: almost all the songs occur on the cabaret stage, the rest of the picture is "straight." I suppose this is in aid of realism, but it doesn't quite succeed. First, as usual in movie musicals, the numbers are much too lavish and complex for the theater in which they're supposed to be done. Second, Fosse is much more comfortable with the musical numbers than with "life." But one clever non-number is more than clever. A sequence in a country beer garden begins with a close-up of an appealing youth singing a pleasant heimisch song. Slowly the camera pulls back and reveals his Nazi armband. The refrain becomes fervent, the camera keeps pulling back, more and more people join with Nazi fervor, and what started out as schmaltz ends as scare. Overly neat, perhaps, but so is most symbolic action. (p. 98)

Cabaret is far better than most movie musicals; but Fosse's smartness, Minnelli's professional unhealth, and the scripts chrome-plated carpentry keep it from being as moving as it wanted to be. (p. 99)

Stanley Kauffmann, "'Cabaret'" (originally published in The New Republic, Vol. 166, No. 10, March 4, 1972), in his Living Images: Film Comment and Criticism (reprinted by permission of Brandt & Brandt Literary Agents, Inc.; copyright © 1970, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1975 by Stanley Kauffmann), Harper & Row, Publishers, 1975, pp. 97-9.