Bob Fosse’s musical Cabaret is included in multiple lists of the best movies of all time. The film holds the record for the most Oscars for a film that does not win the Best Picture award. At the 1973 ceremony the movie won 8 statuettes, including Best Actress for Liza Minnelli and Best Director for Fosse.
Loosely adapted from the Broadway musical of the same name, the film takes more from the novel “The Berlin Stories” and the play “I am a Camera”. Both the novel and the play were in turn the source for the musical. The main difference is that Fosse only took a couple of musical numbers from the original work for the film. John Kander and Fred Ebb wrote new compositions that brought the celluloid version of Cabaret to life.
Life is a Cabaret
Set in 1931 Germany and the dawn of the Nazi party, Cabaret takes us on a delirious journey adorned with music. Sally Bowles (Liza Minnelli) is a young dancer and singer who makes her living performing at the Kit Kat Klub. Brian (Michael York) is a British professor who comes to Germany to do his doctorate and meets Sally at the boarding house they both share.
Fosse doesn’t lead to following the misadventures of Sally and Brian at the hands of the Kit Kat emcee played by Joel Grey. Even when Grey’s character does not directly interfere in the actions of the central plot or the sub-plots, he acts as a narrator.
The boy, the girl, and the Nazi
Each character in Cabaret represents an actor in society. It is necessary to look at the historical context in which the events take place to understand the role of each one. Sally with her lightness makes us look at the conglomerate that does not perceive the change that is coming and at the same time surprises us with her individualism. Brian, on the other hand, is covered with naivety but he succeeds in visualizing that what is taking place is dangerous. Until we get to Maximillian von Heune (Helmut Griem) who embodies the coming Nazi wave.
In the secondary narrative lines, we get involved with Fritz (Fritz Wepper) and Natalia (Marisa Berenson). The first a German and the second a Jewess. Both embark on an affair that does not seem to bear fruit due to socio-political differences.
Between the strokes of the fabulous musical numbers Fosse inserts several sub-texts for us. Homosexuality, social decline, and political criticism top the list. The Kit Kat Klub itself is given to us as a rehearsal for life, within its decadent walls all social classes meet. The trio of Sally, Brian and Maximillian get lost in a difficult-to-define relationship and our eccentric emcee is glimpsed as an opportunistic chameleon.
Tomorrow belongs to me
It may be that the dire rise of the Nazis is subtly given to us, and that Sally’s adventures are much more accentuated. But when we get to the sequence of “Tomorrow belongs to me” and we see that child singing and the crowd that joins him, we can feel that tomorrow looks opaque.
Do you still think you can control them?
Anchored in the magnificent interpretations of Liza Minnelli and Joel Grey, Cabaret intoxicates us. Bob Fosse becomes a legend, and the cinema looks at the birth of one of its immortal works.