Bob's Berlin Bowles
"Cabaret" won 8 out of the 10 Academy Awards it was nominated for including Best Actor in a supporting role, Best Actress in a leading role and Best Director but it didn't win either the Best Picture or Best Writing award and I think I know why, it is too entertaining. That may sound completely bonkers but everything about "Cabaret" is not only entertaining it is full on from the songs, the music, the dances, the styling, the sets and I haven't even got around to the show stopping performances of Liza Minnelli and Joel Grey which are out of this world. But because all of this is so full on that the actual storylines, yes we have a few, suffer because of what almost becomes energetic chaos, an assault on the senses and I am sure it is why it failed to win the other 2 Academy Awards it was nominated for well that and to be honest no one stood a chance against "The Godfather".
After arriving in Berlin English academic Brian Roberts (Michael York - Icon) meets the lively Sally Bowles (Liza Minnelli - Arthur 2: On the Rocks) when he enquires about a room to rent, hitting it off immediately as they often go everywhere together including the vibrant Kit-Kat Club. To Sally's disappointment her attempts to seduce Brian fail with him admitting that 3 failed sexual encounters have left him uninterested although eventually and with the aid of drink things get intimate between the two of them. But then enter Maximilian von Heune (Helmut Griem), a playboy baron who seduces both Sally and Brian, secretly bedding them both and leaving their relationship strained when he clears off and Sally discovers she is pregnant.
I mentioned in the start of this review of "Cabaret" that it has a few storylines and what I have just described is only the main one. We have a further storyline about Fritz who is having lessons from Brian and has fallen for the attractive Natalia but with the rise to power of the Nazi's issues of nationality make matters complex. Talking of which "Cabaret" also shows elements of the rise of the National Socialist movement with scenes which include violence against anyone who speaks out against the Nazis. And then we have the Kit-Kat club itself with Joel Grey as Master of Ceremonies being very much the story teller but at the same time showing us the seedy underbelly of life in 1930's Berlin.
Now that means there is quite a bit going on and each of these story threads are interesting especially the main one between Sally and Brian as their strange relationship hits a few speed bumps. But the trouble for me is that "Cabaret" is such an entertaining movie that these storylines almost struggle to grab your attention, okay so the Brian and Sally one does because it is central but the others not so much get lost in the entertaining chaos but struggle to grab you.
That brings me to the feast of entertainment which is "Cabaret" and it is literally an assault from the word go as we meet Joel Grey as the Master of Ceremonies delivering a comically captivating opening musical number and it never stops right until the end. Now there is the song and dance and "Cabaret" has given us some legendary numbers such as "Money, Money", "Maybe This Time" plus of course "Cabaret". But all these musical numbers are so well produced that not only do they grab your ears they grab your eyes as well from the outfits, the lighting and often in the case of Joel Grey the make up. It is so stylish that in those moments when it focuses on one of the stories it often feels dull in comparison.
Now of course everyone knows "Cabaret" because of Liza Minnelli's performance and it is a brilliant performance not just in the musical numbers but in playing a firecracker of a character who is so full on she is exhausting. But for me Joel Grey deserves just as much praise because his equally full on, no holds barred performance as the Master of Ceremonies is out of this world, comical, occasionally creepy and all the time risque there is never a dull moment when Grey is in the scene. You have to feel sorry for Michael York because as Brian his role is not a small one but because there is no singing and dancing he seems so ordinary despite the ambiguity of his character.
What this all boils down to is that "Cabaret" is a fantastic musical which is full on from the minute it starts to the minute it ends with brilliant song, dance, music and performances through out. But for me it is a little too full on because the actual storylines struggle to grab you when so much else is going on.