This film is set in Belin beginning in 1931. Despite the rapid rise of Fascism, you would never know it inside the bawdy cabaret where much of the movie is set. Here, it is all laughter and gaiety--no sign of the coming war. The apparent stars of this show are Joel Grey (a master of ceremonies who has no other role in the film) and Liza Minelli (an incredibly screwed up American singer and dancer). The utter banality of the cabaret as well as Liza's personal life are a deliberate counter-point to the seriousness of the day. Despite antisemitism running amok, Liza is oblivious to it all--living her hollow and self-indulgent life. How she screws it up and the bizarre relationships she has are makes up about half the film and the rest consists of song and dance numbers. In many ways, it's like two totally separate films fused together.Surprisingly, I found I enjoyed the non-musical portion much more. Liza plays a fascinating character--a perfect film example of a borderline personality. This personality disorder is typified by love-hate relationships, self-absorption, self-destructive behaviors, magical thinking and an inability to accept that they are not the center of the universe. It's obvious that the writers had worked with some mental health professionals to nail this so well. While not fun to watch (after all, who wants to watch a self-absorbed idiot?), it was fascinating. Some of Liza's odd and self-absorbed behaviors included sexual relationships with gay and bisexual men which are destined to fail, extreme promiscuity, alcohol abuse, shallowness and magical thinking. Sadly, in some ways this sounds a bit like Ms. Minelli's real life, though I do wish her the best in her recovery.As for the rest of the cast, they were mostly there for Minelli's character to play off of. Yes, Michael York and others are there, but most of the reason seems to be to provide texture to Minelli's life as well as to provide SOME semblance of normalcy. They see that Germany is slowly descending to Hell, but Liza's character is simply oblivious.CABARET is a very good film, that I won't argue. But for the film to have garnered eight Oscars--that I find very hard to understand. Now it's true that many of these were for musical or set design awards, but still the film doesn't seem that exceptional. Perhaps I am just missing something or perhaps it's because I've seen other films about the Nazi period in Germany that just seemed better. Or, perhaps it's because I preferred the parts of the film where they were NOT singing--for as a musical, it's songs aren't all that memorable. Aside from the rather annoying "Money Makes the World Go Around" and "Cabaret", most people would have a hard time remembering the songs that play such a prominent role in the film.Also, while I do agree that Minelli deserved the Oscar for her demanding performance, I was very surprised to see Joel Grey get one as well. Yes, he did also work hard, but he really had no lines at all in the film--everything he did was singing and dancing and clowning around on stage. With no life beyond the stage, it's very surprising that he won. I assume that part of this was because with three nominees for Best Supporting Actor from THE GODFATHER, the three actors split their votes--allowing the unusual performance by Grey to grab the trophy. I know Grey can act, as he's been amazing in other roles, but here he just sings, dances and acts bizarre---an odd choice for the award.Overall, while this was a very interesting film, I didn't particularly enjoy it. I know MANY disagree with me and they may be right, but given my tastes I just didn't care for the film. In fact, had the film not improved in the second half, I probably wouldn't have finished watching.A final note to parents. This is a VERY adult film with lots of sexual content and frank discussions about homosexuality and abortion. Think twice before showing it to the kids!
And Not Fade Away is rife with the sort of BigEvents that propel a season-long television narrative but blur thefocus of afeature film. Pat gets cancer. Eugene crashes his motorbike into aroadsidelawn jockey. Douglas learns that Grace has been unfaithful; they breakup,reconcile. Repeated digressions involve Grace's older sister (DominiqueMcElligott), an incipient New Ager who eventually ends up committed toapsychiatric institution to the accompaniment of deep cut "Down SoLow" by Mother Earth. This stuff could be fodder for several movies,andit fills this one to overflowing.
THEBLU-RAY DISCNot Fade Away came and went from theatresexceptionally quickly--a bitof a surprise given its prestigious launch at the New York FilmFestival, whichdeclared it "one of the best rock movies ever." Paramount Vantagenever seemed to really get behind it, however, and the film's disastrousperformance in platform release sealed its fate. Fortunately, Blu-rayis not aterrible way to see the movie, shot digitally with the ARRIAlexa. Cinematographer Eigil Bryldworksvery much in the mode of Gordon Willis, capturing rich colours andletting thetoe of the image drift into the shadows. It's a dark transfer, but I saw aDCP in agood theatre and that was exceptionally dark, too, so I'm callingit a winfor Paramount. There is quite a bit of detail in those shadows, thoughyourdisplay will have to be well-calibrated to bring it out. What's more,theblacks are almost completely noise-free and skin tones, at least in thewarm,naturalistic day exteriors, are flush and right on target. The image ispresented here at the HDTV aspect ratio of 1.77:1 and has been encodedat afairly generous bitrate. 2b1af7f3a8