Inside the Kit Kat Club of 1931 Berlin, starry-eyed singer Sally Bowles (Liza Minnelli) and an impish emcee (Joel Grey) sound the clarion call to decadent fun, while outside a certain political party grows into a brutal force.
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Bob Fosse (1972)
The manic pixie dream girl’s manifesto/what Bob Fosse thought about Nazis.
We follow the befuddled Sally Bowles (Liza Minnelli) as parallel to the rise of Hitler. Sex and booze are pretty well enjoyed in Berlin, 1931 and Nazis are, thus far, a joke of organization spouting “tripe” to be ignored.
Fosse seems at first to be only focused on the melodrama of an annoying foursome. A first date is in front of anti-communist posters. Second dance number interlaced with a Jew being beat up. First fight between secondary couple and two Nazi youth members drops a dead dog on their doorstep. Each personal drama is surmounted by a gain in society by the Nazi party.
Sally herself is nothing short of a 20 year old version of the crazy old bat Miss Minnelli we have all come to know and in sitcoms the last decade over. But here she is “an underage femme fatale,” complete with a shapeless body and Josephine Baker haircut. Her lover Brian Roberts (Michael York, you know him as the old mentor of Austin Powers) is stuffy and British, born only to succumb to this crazy dame. Secondary characters include the bi-curious Maximillian, worrisome rapist Fritz and naïve darling Natalia. Yes folks, if ever you’ve wondered “will rape win me the girl?” you now have your answer: “of course! Especially if it’s a vulnerable German Jew.”
There’s some bad over dubbing in a little boat scene which I can only imagine makes Fosse roll in his grave with aggravation to this day. Luckily, for my devout love of Fosse, everything else is characteristically perfect: shot composition, editing, color pallet are all polished. Themes are tightly controlled in the sets, writing and music. It really is unfortunate that three of the four main characters are so heinously annoying.
Easily the best thing about the film, though, is the cabaret host. He is our narrator, and bookends. He lets us know what’s going on behind Minnelli’s uber annoying presence. His androgynous and mime-ish expression is delightful as he sings the narration of the film in a super fake German accent. He lets in Fosse’s signature surreal conduit to his true message: the Nazis were bad for hurting Jews, sure, but REALLY they were bad for shutting down the clubs and doing away with drag queens and everything that is fun.
PS. Liza Minnelli won Best Actress for this shit. Just because she’s Judy Garland’s awkward daughter doesn’t mean she should go around getting credit for exemplifying infuriation.