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Cameron H.

Musical Mondays-Week 7-Cabaret!

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WIllkommen, bienvenue, welcome, whaaaaaaaaaaazup?

 

We watched:

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Me First and the Gimmie Gimmes' cover of "Cabaret" was my only exposure to this Musical prior to watching it, and I was honestly a bit surprised that the song in the movie didn't sound more like it...

 

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MY first exposure to this musical didn't set me up well for seeing this: in the stage version, Brian is named Cliff Bradshaw and is American; Sally is British. I get why they flipped it around (to get Liza) and to have a different nationality opposite her, but is Cliff Bradshaw really SO stereotypically American that they couldn't imagine a Brit with that name?

 

At least we know where Basil Exposition got his mojo, baby.

 

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Even from the opening number, the meta-narrative of the choreography and the cinematography fascinated me in Cabaret. I mean, you have Liza Minnelli, the daughter of Judy Garland and Vincente Minnelli, about as Hollywood Royalty as you can get in 1972, in a lead role that requires a significant amount of song-and-dance numbers. Her father was a legendary director of musicals that were exuberant in their embrace of sweep and scope, with color and inventive camera moves. Hell, he INVENTED the crab dolly, a dolly on wheels that can move in multiple directions. Judy Garland has a catalogue of legendary musical roles as long as it feels like to watch a Vin Diesel monologue (HA TAKE THAT, VIN!)

 

Cabaret, instead (even as it takes place during the era of Busby Berkeley musicals, which were pioneers in elaborate choreography and spectacle in their own right), choose to stage its songs in a small club, with static shots and close ups. The makeup is largely pancake and emphasizes the sharp features of the actors; no soft focus here. The costumes are black and the choreography borderline lewd and in-your-face. The bodies of the actors feel real and exposed, not elegant gods like Gene Kelley or Fred Astaire. Cabaret actively strips away the fantasy with its songs, while the classic musical heightens the fantastical elements of cinema with the songs. It's a classic cinema fable while going against many of the techniques that made musicals what they were. IT'S INTERESTING!

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...but is Cliff Bradshaw really SO stereotypically American that they couldn't imagine a Brit with that name?

 

If anything, I think Cliff Bradshaw sounds more British than "Brian." So weird.

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IT'S INTERESTING!

 

SO FUCKING INTERESTING.

 

Nailed it, Quasar. This film has so much more substance than I could have ever expected.

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SO FUCKING INTERESTING.

 

Nailed it, Quasar. This film has so much more substance than I could have ever expected.

 

Agreed! There was so much nuance in this film. I loved the use of the Kit Kat club as a mirror of what was happening socially at the time. How it begins and ends in that distorted reflection and how we see how much can change in such a short amount of time. How we can have our sanctuaries (or "bubbles" to use the modern metaphor), which are nice and all, but if we aren't vigilante, if we are too laissez-faire toward the darkness around us, the horrible outside world has a nasty habit of infecting even the places where we feel most free, most safe.

 

I also loved how the movie (a Musical!) made the daring, and effective, choice to bookend the film in silence. That was some powerful stuff.

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Me First and the Gimmie Gimmes' cover of "Cabaret" was my only exposure to this Musical prior to watching it, and I was honestly a bit surprised that the song in the movie didn't sound more like it...

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3o7xfJ08anw

This was my only knowledge of Cabaret as well.

 

I have to say I was a bit disappointed, but that's largely because after a few weeks of musicals that I straight up hated, I was REALLY wanting to fall in love with one. And this one didn't grab me the way I had hoped it would.

 

That said, it's a solid movie. I know nothing of the stage version, but my understanding is that this is a very loose adaptation.

 

I didn't get a chance to do much reading about it, but I'm curious what the response was to some of the elements of the film, because I feel like some of them are ahead of their time but also feel a bit dated now. For example, there's the scene where Brian uses the restroom in the Kit Kat Club, and there's a man in drag peeing next to him (I think it might have been the MC, but I couldn't tell for sure). I think it's played as a joke of "look, here's a guy who looks like a girl!" but it's also something you don't really see in mainstream 70s movies. It was starting to enter into film and discussions. After all, Midnight Cowboy was three years earlier and received an X rating just for having a "homosexual frame of reference." Cabaret was PG.

 

Additionally, this movie deals with themes of queerness and abortion, neither of which are topics commonly found in movies of the time without some seriously judgmental moral message behind it. Brian is shown to be bisexual, and while I do find the "you just haven't been with the right three girls" bit problematic, it's interesting that they put his sexuality front and center and don't just play it for laughs or for some other kind of condescending homophobic message.

 

Like others have said, I enjoyed the scenes in the Kit Kat Club. The MC is wonderful, and the transition from mocking the Nazis to thoroughly antisemitic songs does a great job of showing the transition happening in Germany. And the Hitler Youth scene is fucking phenomenal. It's such a great misdirect and a wonderful play on the meaning of the song, which changes drastically once it pulls back to show his uniform.

 

Overall, I thought it was really good, but it wasn't what I had expected at all.

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At least we know where Basil Exposition got his mojo, baby.

 

1908-2.jpg

 

When Brian and Sally first meet when he gets to the boarding house he says "You're American" and she goes "How depressing! You're meant to think I'm an international woman of mystery.." I thought, well.. he does know a thing or two about International Men of Mystery...

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Additionally, this movie deals with themes of queerness and abortion, neither of which are topics commonly found in movies of the time without some seriously judgmental moral message behind it. Brian is shown to be bisexual, and while I do find the "you just haven't been with the right three girls" bit problematic, it's interesting that they put his sexuality front and center and don't just play it for laughs or for some other kind of condescending homophobic message.

 

 

I got the impression that neither of them knew he was attracted to men, or at least, he wasn't ready to admit it to himself. That's why, when he first meets Max, he has this look of shock on his face when Max assures him he's not trying to sleep with him. That forthrightness is not something he's familiar with. And while I think she might have been initially suspicious, Sally certainly doesn't know for sure until he tells her that he's "screwed" Max too. That's why she calls them bastards. It doesn't even enter her mind that he might be interested in Max.

 

So, while I get where you're coming from, I don't think they were trying to say "the right girl will make you straight" so much as you can be so repressed that you don't even know who you are.

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I got the impression that neither of them knew he was attracted to men, or at least, he wasn't ready to admit it to himself. That's why, when he first meets Max, he has this look of shock on his face when Max assures him he's not trying to sleep with him. That forthrightness is not something he's familiar with. And while I think she might have been initially suspicious, Sally certainly doesn't know for sure until he tells her that he's "screwed" Max too. That's why she calls them bastards. It doesn't even enter her mind that he might be interested in Max.

 

So, while I get where you're coming from, I don't think it's a case of "the right girl will make you straight" so much as he was so repressed that neither of them really knew it.

 

 

I just wanted to add onto my own argument, it's also important to acknowledge that Sally lives in a world in which she deludes herself constantly. Once she and Brian started hooking up, I think she was more than willing to overlook the signs that he might be gay.

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I honestly wasn't sure what to expect with 'Cabaret'. I knew my mother and grandmother loved the movie when it came out (which was a good enough reason to assume it wouldn't be up my alley) and I knew Liza Minnelli and Joel Grey had won Oscars for it. I'd seen a stage production of the show years ago but had few memories of it aside from the decision to add makeup to the Kit Kat girls that resembled bruising, so that by the end of the show they were all covered in bruises reflective of the violence of the Nazi regime. I thought that was a cool touch. I never saw the Alan Cummings/Emma Stone/whoever else was stunt-cast in New York, so I came in to this remarkably fresh.

 

What I loved was how assured the camera work was, and how fearlessly the movie departed from the stage play. In this film, the ONLY TWO CHARACTERS TO SING solos are Sally and the Emcee, aside from 'Tomorrow Belongs To Me' (totally agreed, Fister, the reveal of the Nazi armband in that scene is stunning): this isn't the case in the stage version.

 

The use of the Kit-Kat Club as a microcosm for the rise of Nazism - from the rejection of socialism in the first scene to the nearly full audience of Nazis at the end, all refracted through the Emcee starting and ending by looking in the mirror? Brilliant.

 

I thought the production design was spectacular, and authentically built the world of Weimar Germany without being heavy handed. The radios playing news reports in German with snippets of words jumping out to illustrate that it's historic events that are being reported but are played as background noise? Wonderful.

 

The depiction of a proto-Kristallnacht scene with corpses in the street contrasted with Brian and Sally discussing how they'll picnic in the countryside? Incredible.

 

And then flashing back to the Emcee's wise face, grinning with the knowledge of what we know but the Germans don't yet, often flashing so briefly that's almost subliminal? This is an intelligent, vital piece of filmmaking. I owe Bob Fosse an apology, because I always just figured he was nothing more than a gimmicky if innovative stage choreographer. I know 'All That Jazz' but never thought much of it: this, however, is thoughtful filmmaking, not the work of a choreographer moonlighting in a medium he's foreign to.

 

I can see what you mean, Fister, in terms of some of the content - the drag performer at the urinal is a bit of a cheap laugh, I agree - but the bravery of a lot of the subject matter: bisexuality, abortions, anti-Semitism, depression, what have you, are not leered at but are rather presented as a factor in the world. The discussions of syphilis, for example, feels dated but then for the era that's fairly on the money about attitudes towards it.

 

And the stunning transition of Liza moving from her depression over letting Brian leave to lighting up the stage for the titular song at the end? Holy shit.

 

Finally - the choreo/double act of 'Money Makes the World Go Around' captivated me like no other single set piece in any movie musical I've ever seen. To watch consummate pros work is a staggering privilege.

 

I bloody loved this movie.

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So, while I get where you're coming from, I don't think they were trying to say "the right girl will make you straight" so much as you can be so repressed that you don't even know who you are.

Yeah that's not what I got from that statement either, mostly because I thought that maybe he was thinking he was asexual based on how he responded to sex but then when he slept with Sally he was like oh that just wasn't good sex.

 

Also severely disappointed there was no actual threesome. I was rooting for that lol.

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Also severely disappointed there was no actual threesome. I was rooting for that lol.

 

They came soooo close when they were all dancing together and then the dumb Nazi metaphor had to barge in and ruin their sex.

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Also severely disappointed there was no actual threesome. I was rooting for that lol.

 

Undt I'm de oh-nlee man, ja!

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The depiction of a proto-Kristallnacht scene with corpses in the street contrasted with Brian and Sally discussing how they'll picnic in the countryside? Incredible.

 

This was awesome! I loved how all the scenes were either a contrast or a parallel without seeming forced.

 

And then flashing back to the Emcee's wise face, grinning with the knowledge of what we know but the Germans don't yet, often flashing so briefly that's almost subliminal? This is an intelligent, vital piece of filmmaking.

 

The Emcee was amazing! I loved how he starts out almost buffoonish, but by the end, comes off so sinister. Like how that evil just creeps up on you, and before you know it, you're aiding and abetting it.

 

I can see what you mean, Fister, in terms of some of the content - the drag performer at the urinal is a bit of a cheap laugh,

 

Maybe it was played for a laugh at the time, but I didn't think so. I felt it was just indoctrinating Brian into this whole new world that he has no frame of reference for.

 

And the stunning transition of Liza moving from her depression over letting Brian leave to lighting up the stage for the titular song at the end? Holy shit.

 

I loved this so hard. It shows how she just compartmentalizes everything. How entrenched her delusions are (another metaphor). In the previous scene, she's all big eyes and almost childlike in her fragility, and in the very next scene, she's a quick handshake and "ta-ta"ing a wave over her shoulder without a backward glance.

 

 

If I haven't already made it clear, I loved this movie too. It was so brutal and didn't pull any of it's punches. It doesn't need to tell you what happens to all of the characters, it shows you in in that final silent image reflected in a distorted mirror. It's too late. It's gone too far. Every single one of them is doomed in one way or another.

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So I had watched this twice in total ( first time I started it and watched about half, then finished the next night). It grew on me a little more on my second viewing but I too was a little disappointed. I think my expectations were maybe too high.

 

I enjoyed most of the music numbers / any scenes in the Kit Kat Club because I really liked MC. And I really liked Liza's performing and signing "Mein Herr" and "Maybe this Time" especially...

 

So I liked it, but I didn't love it like I thought I would (or like some of you may have).

 

I'm still trying to pin-point the issues I had with it but think most of it has to do with the Brian-Sally relationship and the Love Triangle in general. I don't fully get why Brian and Sally ended up crossing their friend line or what her motivation with Brian was? I get her main motivation with Max was money but Brian...I'm not sure because it did not seem like it was love or... I don't know what it was really since I did not feel that much chemistry with them.

 

I think if I understood the relationships more + more scenes at the Kit Kat Club, I'd have enjoyed it more.

I'm curious as to what the differences are between the film and stage version are though.

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So I had watched this twice in total ( first time I started it and watched about half, then finished the next night). It grew on me a little more on my second viewing but I too was a little disappointed. I think my expectations were maybe too high.

 

I enjoyed most of the music numbers / any scenes in the Kit Kat Club because I really liked MC. And I really liked Liza's performing and signing "Mein Herr" and "Maybe this Time" especially...

 

So I liked it, but I didn't love it like I thought I would (or like some of you may have).

 

I'm still trying to pin-point the issues I had with it but think most of it has to do with the Brian-Sally relationship and the Love Triangle in general. I don't fully get why Brian and Sally ended up crossing their friend line or what her motivation with Brian was? I get her main motivation with Max was money but Brian...I'm not sure because it did not seem like it was love.

 

I think if I understood the relationships more + more scenes at the Kit Kat Club, I'd have enjoyed it more.

I'm curious as to what the differences are between the film and stage version are though.

 

Sally 100%, truly loves Brian. It's why she can't go with him in the end. If she goes, they would be denying themselves who they truly are. Specifically, her ambition and his sexuality. Eventually, this repression of their true selves would end in hatred and resentment, so it's better for them just to part ways. They love each other too much to stay together.

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I'm curious as to what the differences are between the film and stage version are though.

 

A useful article that sheds plenty of light on this question:

 

http://www.flickchar...screen-cabaret/

 

The Fraulein Schneider/Herr Schultz relationship is hugely important in the stage play, and is cut completely for the film, along with several other major elements.

 

 

Honestly, I think the film is WAY better off with its much less cluttered structure.

 

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Was I the only one who felt like Max's dumb moustache looked like he just drank milk and didn't wipe his face?

 

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Blonde dudes with moustaches are just ASKING for people to say 'hey, you have something on your fa--- oh. Sorry.'

 

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I can see what you mean, Fister, in terms of some of the content - the drag performer at the urinal is a bit of a cheap laugh, I agree

I think it was the trans character "Elke" that walked into the mens room and was also the butt of a joke when Sally told Brian she was able to get away from the unwanted suitor because she told him 'she had the tiniest touch of syphilis" and then said "but wait until he gets a load of what ol' Elky's got"

 

I found both of those jokes were kind of problematic.. I get that at the time that may have been a "go-to" joke, but I guess was a little disappointed since, like others have said, they were tackling a lot of subject matter that wasn't being showcased at the time.

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Was I the only one who felt like Max's dumb moustache looked like he just drank milk and didn't wipe his face?

 

Blonde dudes with moustaches are just ASKING for people to say 'hey, you have something on your fa--- oh. Sorry.'

 

 

200.gif#24

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I found both of those jokes were kind of problematic.. I get that at the time that may have been a "go-to" joke, but I guess was a little disappointed since like others have said they were tackling a lot of subject matter that wasn't being showcased at the time.

 

First of all, Elke was a MAN?!? I thought she meant she had more than syphilis. I missed that one completely.

 

I mean, I get the disappointment, but I feel like this movie was extremely progressive for its time that it's almost unfair to judge it by saying it wasn't progressive enough. To me, It's like your country winning the long jump competition, but being disappointed that they didn't beat the world record.

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To me, It's like your country winning the long jump competition, but being disappointed that they didn't beat the world record.

 

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