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“Divinely decadent,” it’s a phrase you’ll hear chirped frequently through the cupids-bow lips of our girl protagonist, Sally Bowes. It’s also the perfect descriptor for the Blu-ray release commemorating the 40th anniversary of director/choreographer Bob Fosse’s groundbreaking movie musical, Cabaret.

Willkommen, bienvenue, welcome, to Berlin 1931.  The ashes of World War I have fallen like glitter over a demimonde of bohemians, expatriates and social miscreants thriving in the moral flexibility of the era.  A fresh-faced, bright-eyed Brit called Brian occupies a low-rent boarding house that immerses into a cross section of the local citizenry, including some prostitutes and an American showgirl.  The dotty eccentric, Sally Bowles, serves as Brian’s glamourous guide to the hot spots and low-lifes of Berlin after dark.  As the expatriate pair grows closer together, the world around them is shifting: Germany’s depression has given rise to an ultra-right-wing movement that is making itself heard in unspeakable ways; primarily by fomenting hate amongst the populace, making scapegoats of those different race to blame for all that has befallen them.  The movement’s presence begins to threaten the carefree existences of Brian and Sally’s Jewish friends and even snakes its way into the seedy nightclub – the eponymous Cabaret - that serves as a stage and sanctuary.

That summary doesn’t even begin to give away the sexy, subversive wonder of Cabaret.  As a film, it’s a perfect storm combination of style and substance: There’s the gripping premise of a world on the brink of disaster.  The young innocents abroad fiddle while Berlin slow burns.  There’s the outstanding production design and look of the film, including the amazing costumes, make-up and sets, all of which have been ceaselessly imitated in virtually every pop culture medium.  There’s the excellent performances by all the cast led by Liza Minnelli’s star-making, Oscar-snatching turn as Sally Bowles.  Equally fantastic are Joel Grey, who also won an Oscar as the Puck/Greek Chorus/Angel of Death-like figure of the Cabaret’s emcee, and Michael York as the wide-eyed ingénue, Brian, whose bisexual proclivities are right at home in permissive early 1930s Berlin.  However, all these amazing factors are also-ran beside the magic of the musical sequences.  John Kander and Fred Ebb’s infectious melodies and wry, edgy lyrics provide fertile ground for the sexy, provocative numbers filled with writhing, thumping dance gyrations that are still impactful and widely ripped off.  Cabaret broke the mold of the movie musical forty years ago and still rings with relevance today.

On the Blu-ray:What good is sitting alone in your room?”  Well, plenty, if you’re sitting there with the Cabaret 40th Anniversary Blu-ray.  The film’s restoration and transfer is fabulous.  A fact made all the more vivid when viewing any of three included featurettes that use older film footage with scratches and terribly visible disintegration.  One featurette is fairly recent with newer interviews with the cast and filmmakers, while the others are considerably older.  Other behind-the-scenes features and interviews explore the production design and the recreation of 1930s Berlin, while extensive chats with Liza Minnelli, Joel Grey, Michael York, composer John Kander and others dissect the Cabaret’s unforgettable looks and music.  The commentary track is provided by Stephen Tropiano, who authored a book on the film’s origins.  The 40th Anniversary edition is packaged with an informative book that tracks the movie’s evolution, from Christopher Isherwood’s novel, Goodbye Berlin, to the original play, I Am a Camera, which begot the Broadway musical that became the film adaptation, all the way to Oscar night. The book also has fabulous stills and talent bios.  It’s a gorgeous, must-have, divinely decadent addition to any film lover’s library.

 

~ The Lady Miz Diva

Feb 5th, 2013

 

Click here for our coverage of the CABARET 40th Anniversary NYC press junket and Red Carpet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Images:

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Stills Courtesy of  Warner Home Entertainment

 

 

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