Currently at the Prince Charles Cinema they are showing the movie version of the stage musical CABARET, which was based on the Christopher Isherwood novel ‘Goodbye to Berlin’ which in turn was the basis of the stage play ‘I Am A Camera’ – are you still with me?
The cinema has thought up a very novel idea to put you in the mood for the film to follow. As you approach, loud speakers are blaring out what seats are available for which performance, and the doormen unpolitely shepherd the crowds into various queues. The whole thing reminds one of the days of the German prison camps in fact.
Inside the same procedure continues. The usherette on duty at the doors of the bar yells at you to “keep the doors clear” and inside the cinema the other usherettes are equally rude as they wave their torches in the direction of your seat.
The inevitable adverts and trailers begin and as usual an interval follows so that more refreshments can be sold. One feels these days that by the time the adverts, refreshment breaks and so on have taken place you have almost forgotten what your original intentions were in going to the cinema. I noticed the usherette selling goodies had some sort of symbol on her uniform which vaguely resembled the Star of David – seemingly even today the Jews are getting a bad break from the Germans.
The film finally begins and instead of a bright arrangement of the title tune there is only SILENCE. The names appear and there is a slight murmur of voices in the background. The screen changes from black shades to mudded colours, distorted faces fill the screen as the credits end and suddenly the grotesque heavily made-up face of Joel Gray as the MC appears full face, and the film begins.
We anre back in the Germany of the 1930’s and both the songs, sets and fashions are perfect in context. In her earlier scenes Liza Minelli struck me as a young girl playing at being a grown-up. A short while later I remembered that that is exactly what the role of Sally Bowles is all about. Already the talk in Hollywood is that she is a strong contender for next year’s Oscar and on this showing unless some miraculous female performance comes along within the comings months, I should think she will remain a hot favourite to win this coveted award.
Joel Gray, who won the biggest critical reception for his role in the New York stage production, impresses greatly on screen and its a shame that in praising Minelli so many critics seem to have overlooked his superb work in the film. Finally Bob Foss has overcome his fondness for the ‘freeze frame’ approach which marred his first directing stint ‘Sweet Charity’ and has come up with a first class movie.