Sunday, 25 March 2012


I watched this 1972 film today. The movie is set in 1931 Berlin during the rise of the Nazi Party, and centers on the erratic and intertwined lives of american singer and dancer Sally (played by Liza Minnelli) and British Brian, played by Michael Fox. Despite Scott laughing at me for watching it, and despite the rather sad ending, I liked it. I can understand why cabaret went home with eight academy awards that year, including best actress (say what you will about Liza, I LOVED her as Sally. Nyah.)
Liza as Sally

The film, first of all, is well written, and quite stylish. I found myself drooling a little over elements of the wardrobe. Maybe I was a drag queen in another life. The cinematography was great (they won another academy award for that as well), with a range of interesting shots, and a use of lighting that had a weight of meaning to it. Lighting for a feeling, not lighting for the script, if that makes sense. Yeah, you can tell I wasn't a film major. So sue me. *grins*

Love Natalia's driving outfit
Second, I felt that Cabaret did an interesting take on capturing a little heeded segment of history. Much attention is given to the time during and after the Second World War in film, but not much has been done on the climate in Germany leading up to the start of the war. There is a sense in which the movie captures the potent hangover of the "roaring twenties," and the desire to cling to a lifestyle of decadence that is quickly becoming unfeasible in the insanely inflated German economy. There is a sense throughout the movie of a gathering shadow, to which the characters turn a determinedly blind eye as they pursue their dreams of fame and wealth and romance. There is an eerie scene where Brian and his (sugardaddy?) Maximillion are sitting at an outdoor cafe, and a Hitler Youth begins singing a song called "Tomorrow belongs to me", and nearly the entire cafe crowd joins in. Here is an example of where the lighting is so exquisitely done. This scene was shot in the light of a near-perfect summer afternoon, an ironic contrast which makes the viewer even more keenly aware of the dark times the Youth's word's are foreshadowing. I THOUGHT IT WAS CLEVER.

Cabaret, despite its closing assertion that "life is a cabaret" reminds us that life is anything but. Germany--and the rest of the world--like Elsie in the final song number by Sally, is coming close to killing itself young with alcohol and pills. The absolute abandon of the twenties can no longer be sustained, and something is going to give. The final shot, which shows an audience of Nazi party members grotesquely reflected in the waved glass of the cabaret backdrop reminds us that the dissipated lifestyle warps one's ability to view reality, and makes one blind to danger. Cabaret dreams cannot last, just as the world was shaken awake from its 1920's stupor by first the depression, and then the war. 

I read it as a beautiful, but cautionary tale. I could just be pulling things out of my ass though. I usually do.

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