Thursday, February 09, 2006

Fosse: DVD review

All together now... from the top, people... With jazz-hands!

The DVD Fosse (2002) is a record of the recent Broadway show of the same name, a tribute to the legendary choreographer Bob Fosse. As with any such recording of a live show, there's a bit of immediacy and intimacy--particularly important when it comes to dance--that's lost.

I have mixed feelings about musicals, too. I suppose deep down I love them, but there's something about them that makes me deeply uncomfortable. I always feel embarassed when people start dancing or break out into song (even if I'm just sitting in my own living room watching them on the screen I can start to blush). And though my tendency is to sit back and try to enjoy the spectacle, I can't always quiet the suspiscion that there is something cretinous, or even cretinizing, about watching people who are looking excited and smiling broadly, shimmying across the stage with a bowler and cane to the tune of "Hey, Big Spender" or whatever.

Nonetheless, I was slowly won over by the movie. Fosse was a real artist. As one of the dancers says during the interviews that appear between the acts, his work was full of paradoxes: lightness and weight, elegance and earthiness, jerkiness and fluidity. Some of the numbers, taken out of context of narrative, seem almost avant-garde. I also admired the way he wasn't afraid to use stillness and silence--as opposed to the noise and commotion we associate with most Broadway shows--for dramatic effect. A line of dancers whispering a verse of a song, arranged in a tableau or simply rotating one foot at the ankle or sitting in parlor chairs backwards.

Fosse's material didn't always match his talents: a few of the numbers lifted from the late 70s show Dancin' I thought were pretty weak, at least musically. At three acts, the DVD may be a bit too long. (It's a good one to have playing while you're doing something else, though.) And there's not a lot here that's modest or subdued, which is usually how I like things. (The nature of the beast, I suppose.) But despite its limitations, the DVD record of the show is worth a look. Fosse's creativity seemed pretty prodigious, and like all great artists, he made it look easy and totally natural.

FilmStocker Rating: B-


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