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Cabaret (1972, Liza Minelli, Joel Grey)

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‘Literate, bawdy, sophisticated, sensual, cynical, heart-warming, disturbingly thought provoking,’ Variety wrote presciently on the release of Fosse’s seven-Oscar-garlanded film. Based loosely on Christopher Isherwood’s stories of pre-war Berlin and firmly on the smash hit musical, this is not just a musical but a story about love and compromise, enhanced by classic songs and scenes.

Set in the Kit Kat Club, hosted by Joel Grey, whose wicked remarks about the rise of the Nazi regime give the film some of its acerbic edge, it is the story of singer Sally Bowles (Liza Minnelli), with whom both American writer Brian Roberts (Michael York) and playboy Max (Helmut Griem) fall in love. Counterpointing their story is the tale of Natalie (Marisa Berenson), who falls for Fritz (Fritz Wapper), who, like her, is of Jewish descent. As the political scene in Berlin foments, so all their lives are changed.

The film stays true to the political cabaret that was then the rage in Germany, mirroring the decadence that seemed to grip the nation yet allowed the Nazis to rise to power. Wisely, Fosse refuses to allow the politics to overwhelm, but when they are there, they are there – the Biergarten scene with the song of Tomorrow Belongs to Me being choroused by old and young, uniformed and not is one of cinema’s most chilling moments. Yet Minnelli plays the innocent observer to perfection, acting as the audience’s eyes (I Am a Camera was also an inspiration for the film). Oblivious to all but her pleasure, she is capable of love and, when pregnant, talk of babies at one moment, and the next is darkly sleazy and happy to have an abortion. She almost encapsulates the dual nature of Germany at the time and, as such, acts as guide to both its sides.

production details
USA | 124 minutes | 1972

Director: Bob Fosse
Writers: Jay Allen, Hugh Wheeler

cast
Liza Minnelli as Sally Bowles
Michael York as Brian Roberts
Joel Grey as Master of Ceremonies
Elisabeth Neumann-Viertel as Fräulein Schneider
Helen Vita as Fräulein Kost
Gerd Vespermann as Bobby
Ralf Wolter as Herr Ludwig
Georg Hartmann as Willi
Ricky Renée as Elke
Estrongo Nachama as Cantor
Sigrid von Richthofen as Fräulein Mayr
Helmut Griem as Maximilian von Heune
Marisa Berenson as Natalia Landauer
Fritz Wepper as Fritz Wendel
Kathryn Doby as Kit-Kat Dancer
Inge Jaeger as Kit-Kat Dancer
Angelika Koch as Kit-Kat Dancer
Helen Velkovorska as Kit-Kat Dancer
Gitta Schmidt as Kit-Kat Dancer
Louise Quick as Kit-Kat Dancer
Pierre Franckh as Nazi with Collecting Box
Ellen Umlauf as Lady at Party
Oliver Collignon as Blonde Boy Singer

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