Sunday, April 3, 2011

Two From One Time: 1979 ('Breaking Away', 'All That Jazz')

I watched 'Breaking Away' (again) recently, one of my film inspirations. In terms of storytelling, it has the perfect blend of a bubbly confection and poignancy that is difficult to achieve (it won the Best Screenplay Oscar for 1979, for good reason.) This is a film you can smile through the entire time, while simultaneously being moved by the proceedings. There is neither pretension to the story, nor in its characters. How can anyone not adore 'The Cutters' (or 'townies'), a group of friends who feel like they are neither here nor there? But then, even those collegiate brats they feel so belittled by aren't exactly jerks, either - as becomes obvious in several scenes with the group's greatest preppy nemesis, particularly when he succumbs to appreciating The Cutters' great achievement in the final act. He cracks a smile for their deserved win, never mind that he and his friends lost. The Cutters and the people in this Indiana town are ones you can care about and that is what I love in a film. This one is a rare film I can 'file away' in that place in my mind of having learned something great - in this case, it is about what one can do with storytelling, something so vital to entertainment but lacking in too many of our more contemporary movies.

And far on the other side of the spectrum in 1979 there was also 'All That Jazz'. I saw this film recently, as well, and was completely blown away. Not so much because of the content, although I'm impressed by what is there - but the fact that this was Fosse. Bob Fosse is also a huge inspiration for me, second only to Stanley Donen as a dancer-choreographer turned filmmaker. The editing in the film is impeccable and garnered an Academy Award (again, very deserved.) This is rhythm incarnate - however manic. And the mania of this masterful man is something to behold. I am forever in Fosse's court of admirers, although I would never want to emulate the man, himself, or his life choices. His stamina was indeed a thing of fascination, but drug-induced, and that is where my admiration becomes finite. All in all, I've got mad, mad respect for Bob Fosse and 'All That Jazz' which plays as a capsule of his freakishly fantastic existence. Really, I have no words for this one when you get down to it - as I'm fairly awestruck from discovering the whirlwind energy of Fosse.
To take us out, here are two of my own video montages that made ample use of "Breaking Away' and 'All That Jazz', respectively...


  1. All That Jazz is just great, probably Scheider's greatest role besides Jaws.

  2. Yes, those are the two that always come to mind for Scheider - but how odd, I just checked Wikipedia and it looks like he'll have his final performance posthumously released this year (wonder why it's taken three years...)

  3. I agree Will (I'll throw in Sorcerer in there too). These two flicks are way up on my list. Dennis Christopher was highly underrated, in my book. Breaking Away would've been such a different movie without him in it. Too bad there aren't any lead actors like him today -- the sensitive, un-macho type (Chris Makpeace, Robby Benson...). Can you picture a film like California Dreaming or My Bodyguard with Zac Efron?