All That Jazz (USA, 1979, Bob Fosse)
Bob Fosse's not-so-thinly veiled autobiographical film is a viciously honest portrayal of the central character, Joe Gideon, a brilliant but deeply troubled and self-absorbed director/choreographer who has ongoing problems with drugs, alcohol, and fidelity. Fosse borrows liberally from the style and intent of Frederico Fellini (8 1/2's navel gazing in particular) but makes the film distinctly his own as well. Indeed, All That Jazz is a speed freak of a movie, flying by at breakneck pace, then screeching to a halt so the protagonist can indulge in some serious ruminations on death. Incessant morbidity, found in the film's regular detours into the surreal, and Jessica Lange's appearance as the stunningly beautiful personification of death in particular, lays bare for the audience Gideon's keenly self-destructive impulses.
As his name suggests, Gideon has a bit of a God complex, and he views his work as a struggle to create something as beautiful as one of God's creations. And the film ponders with some ambivalence the notion that the creative juices flow better where disaster and destruction reign supreme. Indeed, it is difficult to tell if Fosse is apologizing for his boorish behavior or explaining it. Is this revelation, or self-indulgence? Perhaps the film's most revealing line of dialogue is delivered by Gideon as he faces death "If I die, I'm sorry for all the bad things I did to you. And if I live, I'm sorry for all the bad things I'm gonna do to you." The film is a dazzling piece of eye (and ear) candy, full of brilliant dance sequences (the AirRotica sequence stands out), great music, and bizarre flights into the fantasy world in Gideon's head. The fanciful near-death experiences at the climax are an adrenaline-soaked showstopper, and Roy Scheider does the best work of his career.
The film was nominated for nine Academy Awards and won four of them.