Windy City Media Group Frontpage News

THE VOICE OF CHICAGO'S GAY, LESBIAN, BI, TRANS AND QUEER COMMUNITY SINCE 1985

home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2021-09-01
DOWNLOAD ISSUE
Donate

Sponsor
Sponsor

  WINDY CITY TIMES

Knight at the Movies: Cabaret, A Star Is Born on Blu-ray
by Richard Knight, Jr., for Windy City Times
2013-02-06

This article shared 3171 times since Wed Feb 6, 2013
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email


Liza Minnelli has cited Cabaret, the film for which she won the Oscar for Best Actress in 1972, as the first real adult musical, and she's right. But the movie's setting—the tatty, amoral Kit Kat Club in Berlin in 1931 amidst the backdrop of the rise of the Nazi party, and its taboo subject matter—had a lot to do with my resistance to it when I first caught it during a screening while in college. Even with its openly gay characters (a musical first) and sexy, unapologetic approach, Cabaret seemed too unnerving, too acrid upon first encounter. I recognized its brilliance but wasn't ready for its dark reality. I adhered to the old line that musicals were supposed to transport one to another place—a fantasy, phony place at that.

It was no surprise then that I much preferred 1976's A Star Is Born—which purported to show the dark side of the glitzy yet grimy world of rock 'n' roll, and starred Barbra Streisand (in one of her biggest box-office hits) as the singer on the rise as well as bearded, beastie, impossibly hunky Kris Kristofferson as a debauched rock star and her improbable love interest, who was heading for a swift decline via the familiar liquor-slicked, drug-fueled fast lane. The hipster rock setting for the Streisand picture, a fourth remake of material that dated back to the early 1930s, seemed very in-the-moment; emotionally, the movie reeled the viewer in, stayed true to Hollywood's musical formula and seemed to offer Streisand a genuine triumph as she belted out song after song.

Watching both again, however, in their new, handsomely packed Blu-ray editions from Warner Home Video, it's immediately apparent that one of the basic truths about movies definitely applies to these two efforts: Some movies get better with time and some, well, some do not.

Cabaret, winner of multiple Academy Awards and an instant triumph, is clearly the masterpiece that it has always been hailed as while A Star Is Born, which also won an Oscar (for Best Song for "Evergreen"), is a movie that is so rooted in place, time and the tightly controlled grip of its star and executive producer, Streisand, as to be almost unwatchable today. Talk about a movie that hasn't aged well. And this assessment comes from a man who stood in line on opening day in 1976 and then went back to see it—happily, ecstatically—seven more times! I loved it then but think it's just about awful now.

True, when Streisand raises that one-in-a-million voice in song there are distinctive pleasures to be had—the lovely, overlooked "Everything" and "Lost Inside of You" are still highlights as is the playful vocal teasing between she and Kristofferson on "Evergreen"—and Kristofferson's burned-out-but-still-sexy rock star hits home. There are some nice supporting turns—by Gary Busey, Paul Mazursky and Marta Heflin. But everything else—the things I overlooked back then during my "Barbra Is a Goddess" period—now seem so patently fake, overdone (especially Streisand's performance) and illogical (beginning with what draws the two leading characters together to begin with) that the movie seems interminable—a testament to the ego of Streisand and her then-lover and fellow producer, Jon Peters. It really is the over-the-top home movie the press tagged the picture with upon its release.

Cabaret, on the other hand, has not lost an ounce of its stylish panache. It certainly influenced later musicals tackling adult themes—Chicago being the most prominent—but part of its greatness is that it stands alone at the pinnacle of the form and it really hasn't ever been equaled. It has been beautifully restored for this 40th-anniversary edition, and Geoffrey Unsworth's gorgeous, dark cinematography (one of the film's eight Oscar wins) is as lustrous as I remember it.

The material had been the subject of many previous adaptations of gay writer Christopher Isherwood's memoir The Berlin Stories. Stage producer Hal Prince was set to make his film debut, after having successfully shepherded the 1967 Broadway musical version; however, scheduling conflicts got in the way, and both he and the film's producer Cy Feuer decided to take a chance on director-choreographer Bob Fosse, even though Fosse's film version of Sweet Charity had been a monumental flop.

Fosse and his collaborators made the brilliant decision to excise any musical numbers from the story that diverted from reality, retaining only the songs commenting indirectly on the character's lives. That meant a big subplot of the stage vehicle had to be jettisoned, replaced by more Kit Kat club numbers (by John Kander and Fred Ebb) and more emphasis on the relationship between Brian (played by the impossibly handsome and sweet Michael York in his best movie role), who becomes fast friends and briefly, the lover to "that international singing sensation, fraulein Sally Bowles"—the incomparable, madcap Sally with the Louise Brooks bowl cut and the divinely decadent green fingernails. Minnelli, fresh from her Oscar-nominated performance in The Sterile Cuckoo, was signed to the role and loved Fosse's determination to make something smart, brittle and electrifying.

Under Fosse's exacting tutelage both Minnelli and York—along with the fantastic Joel Grey (also an Oscar winner) as the uber-creepy (and equally irresistible) MC of the Kit Kat Club—did just that, and Cabaret entertains with its audacity and unsentimental approach from the moment Fosse shoots the Kit Kat customers through the distorted mirrors of the club at the film's outset. Minnelli and Grey kill one song after another, and Fosse dazzles with the razor-sharp cutting of his inventive camera angles focusing on Sally and the Kit Kat girls in their stockings, garters and bowler hats. The numbers, intercut with the often abhorrent actions of the Nazis outside the club, also beautifully move the story along, deepening the songs and story. Minnelli enchants—a triple threat who sings, dances and acts with quirky, breathless assurance masking uncontrolled vulnerability. In the process, she became the enduring gay icon she remains. (Last week she, York, Grey, and co-star Marisa Berenson all attended a screening of the film in New York.)

Screenwriter Jay Presson Allen was given the directive to reinstate the homosexuality of the character of Brian (this had been removed from the Broadway version), making him again the unapologetically gay man portrayed in Isherwood's stories. The movie's blurring of sexual boundaries is incredibly potent throughout, especially during a scene in which Brian and Sally hook up with the handsome bisexual German baron (played by the late gay actor Helmut Griem) and the trio drunkenly entwines, dancing in the living room of the baron's country estate. (He later seduces them both.) It's just one memorable sequence in a film that is made of them.

Film notes:

—Maryam Keshavarz's 2011 eye-opening film Circumstance, which traces the course of a forbidden romance between two 16-year-old Iranian teenage girls, is showing as part of Sharon Zurek's Dyke Delicious series on Saturday, Feb. 9, at Chicago Filmmakers, 5243 N. Clark St. The terrific film, which has been banned in Iran, was one of my top 10 LGBT movies for 2011. A 7 p.m. social hour will precede the 8 p.m. screening. Presented by Black Cat Productions and Reeling. The film will also be screened as part of the Chicago Filmmakers series at Columbia College in Hokin Hall (623 S. Wabash Ave.) tonight, Wednesday, Feb. 6 at 7:30pm. www.chicagofilmmakers.org

—The Music Box Theatre, 3733 N. Southport Ave., presents an encore screening of John Lithgow in the Victorian farce The Magistrate, part of its National Theatre Live series, on Sunday, Feb. 10 at 2 p.m. www.musicboxtheatre.com

Check out my archived reviews at www.windycitymediagroup.com or www.knightatthemovies.com . Readers can leave feedback at the latter website


This article shared 3171 times since Wed Feb 6, 2013
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email





Windy City Media Group does not approve or necessarily agree with the views posted below.
Please do not post letters to the editor here. Please also be civil in your dialogue.
If you need to be mean, just know that the longer you stay on this page, the more you help us.


  ARTICLES YOU MIGHT LIKE

Gay News

8th Annual Black Alphabet Film Festival on Nov. 5-7 2021-09-17
- The 8th Annual Black Alphabet Film Festival (BAFF) will take place Nov. 5-7 at the University of Chicago's Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts, 915 E. 60th St. One of the longest running Black ...


Gay News

Brittany Devon meets a 'Platonic Girlfriend' 2021-09-15
- Queer, genderfluid actor Brittany Devon has created a brand new project to explore with Platonic Girlfriend. It is the story of a relationship between straight woman Alice and a queer, nonbinary person named Dev. Devon stars ...


Gay News

THEATER Out actor Dan Butler to be in 'When Harry Met Rehab' 2021-09-15
- Don Clark, a Chicago-based film/theater producer as well as co-owner of the Chicago Magic Lounge, will present the world premiere of When Harry Met Rehab—a comedy that takes sobriety seriously and is based loosely on the ...


Gay News

SHOWBIZ 'Boy Meets Boy,' Jennifer Hudson, 'SVU,' tennis honor, ABBA 2021-09-12
- Ariztical Entertainment is releasing the German movie Boy Meets Boy on DVD and VOD on Oct. 26. According to a press release, the plot of the 70-minute movie is as follows: "Harry has been partying for ...


Gay News

MOVES Talking about 'Everybody's Talking About Jamie' 2021-09-08
- The new movie Everybody's Talking About Jamie tells the inspiring story of Jamie New, a young drag artist who overcomes hardship and homophobia in Sheffield, England. Out actor Max Harwood stars as New, who gets by ...


Gay News

Survivor shares the story of trauma and thriving in 'Untold' 2021-09-07
- WARNING: This article contains material of a graphic nature. Gina M. Garcia is finally sharing her story of thriving after trauma in her new docu-drama biography, Untold: This is My Story, which premieres Sept. 6 at ...


Gay News

MOVIES Fall films harvest famous names for LGBTQ+ stories 2021-09-01
- The film industry is featuring world-renowned names like Lady Gaga, Truman Capote and Tammy Faye on the big screen this fall season. Award-winning musicals, true-life stories and far-out fiction are all part of the fun in ...


Gay News

MOVIES 'On Broadway' to open Sept. 10 in Highland Park 2021-09-01
- As theatergoers prepare for the return of Broadway after an unprecedented absence of 18 months, Kino Lorber is releasing Academy Award nominee Oren Jacoby's documentary On Broadway. The tribute to one of the most vibrant ...


Gay News

SHOWBIZ Billy Porter, 'Death Drop,' Brandi Carlile, vintage films, Gaga 2021-08-29
- Billy Porter will direct a queer teen comedy feature titled To Be Real for Amazon Studios, which is being helmed by Gabrielle Union's I'll Have Another Productions, NME.com noted. Porter, who is currently working on his ...


Gay News

EVENTS Celebrity attendees named for Wizard World Chicago 2021-08-28
- William Shatner (Star Trek; TV's Boston Legal), Michael Rooker (Guardians of the Galaxy, TV's The Walking Dead), Matthew Lewis (All Creatures Great and Small), James Marsters (TV series Buffy the ...


Gay News

TV Netflix animated series 'Chicago Party Aunt' debuts Sept. 17 2021-08-27
- The LGBTQ-inclusive series Chicago Party Aunt will debut on Netflix on Friday, Sept. 17. Inspired by the popular Twitter account Chicago Party Aunt, this eight-episode adult animated comedy follows Diane Dunbrowski and nephew Daniel as they ...


Gay News

Reeling: The Chicago LGBTQ+ International Film Festival announces full slate 2021-08-25
--From a press release - CHICAGO, Illinois — Reeling: The Chicago LGBTQ+ International Film Festival today announced the full slate of programming for 2021, opening September 23, 2021 at the Music Box Theatre (3733 N. Southport Ave.) and running September 24 ...


Gay News

MOVIES 'Mr. SOUL!' looks at groundbreaking '60s show and Black, gay host 2021-08-23
- Al Green, Stevie Wonder, Patti LaBelle, Gladys Knight, Nikki Giovanni, James Baldwin, Cicely Tyson, Harry Belafonte, Muhammad Ali, The Last Poets, Earth, Wind & Fire, Sidney Poitier, Mavis Staples and even a teenaged Arsenio Hall were ...


Gay News

SHOWBIZ RuPaul, GALECA toast, Elliot Page, 'Chippendales,' bi model 2021-08-22
- RuPaul revealed a new wax figure at Madame Tussauds Las Vegas, a press release noted. The all-new Rainbow Runway experience invites guests to "meet" and take cues from the most commercially successful drag queen of all ...


Gay News

MUSIC Lyric Opera of Chicago's 'Pagliacci' on film 2021-08-18
- Lyric Opera of Chicago announced that registration is now open for audiences to secure a free link to screen the new, original film production of Leoncavallo's Pagliacci, filmed at the Lyric Opera House. Audiences can now ...


 



Copyright © 2021 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.

 

 

 

TRENDINGBREAKINGPHOTOS







Sponsor
Sponsor


 



Donate


About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Advanced Search     
Windy City Queercast      Queercast Archives     
Press  Releases      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast      Blogs     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Privacy Policy     

Windy City Media Group publishes Windy City Times,
The Bi-Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.