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Better Late Than Never: CABARET

We continue with our series of writers volunteering to confess the classic movies they’ve never seen, and what they think after finally seeing those flicks. Today, Lauren Herstik ‘fesses up:

The Film:
Cabaret (dir. Bob Fosse, 1972)

Age at Which Author Finally Saw It:

How Could You Have Missed It?:

Good God, I have no idea. I grew up the daughter of a community theater musical director, my nights spent in musty middle school auditoriums watching local divas duke it out for ugly stepsister-type parts in The Wizard of Oz and Into the Woods. I cite Mandy Patinkin, musical master, as the platonic ideal of a human man, and if I were so inclined towards tattoos, they’d all be Sondheim lyrics. But my film-viewing habits always leaned toward cult comedies like Wet Hot American Summer and non-stop repeat viewings of the Mean Girls/10 Things I Hate About You/Clueless trifecta, so I sort of missed the whole Bob Fosse boat.


There was my life B.C.: Before Cabaret. And there is my life now. Liza Minnelli has always and will always hold a place in the Pantheon of Perfection I’m personally curating, should I ever find the time to start a religion. But her performance in Cabaret takes it to a whole new level. Not only does she totally own the iconic look: self-cut bangs, jet black bob, eyelashes for days, but her Sally Bowles is at once heartbreaking, heartbroken, and show stopping. I cry instantly at any rendition of “Maybe This Time,” but hers set the bar, and it’s too high for just about anyone to get over.

There’s Joel Grey, inimitable as the Emcee (though many have tried and come close, Alan Cumming).

And then there’s Bob Fosse as the driving force of genius behind the whole thing. This film is honestly unlike anything you’ve ever seen (until you see Sweet Charity, and – I assume – All That Jazz) thanks to Fosse’s remarkable direction and choreography. No one can do what he does with a psycho-sexual romp through Weimar Germany on the eve of the rise of the Nazis, and really I’m glad no one else did. His fingerprints are all over Cabaret in the meticulous composition of his shots, and the singular quality of his choreography.

There’s a reason Cabaret swept up eight Oscars that year, with Fosse beating Francis Ford Coppola for Best Director, and probably only missing Best Picture because, you know, The Godfather.

Are you a Convert?:

In every sense of the word. I’ve said goodbye to many late nights, lost in a YouTube rabbit hole of Liza Minnelli performances, and Bob Fosse dance numbers. And Cabaret led me to Sweet Charity, which will inevitably take me to All That Jazz, at which point all my Halloween costume and karaoke performance inspiration for the rest of my life should pretty much be taken care of.

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  2. Nick says:

    You MUST see All That Jazz ASAP. It is a singular, brilliant work, especially if you like Fosse. Roy Scheider is amazing as ‘Joe Gideon’ (i.e. Fosse) and Ann Reinking (she had the lead on B’way in Chicago, A Chorus Line, and Sweet Charity) is spectacular as his sometimes leading lady. My old roommate worked on it and has some great behind the scenes photos from the production.