The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


Cabaret 40th Anniversary Blu-Ray Book - Own it February 5

To celebrate the film's 40th anniversary, Warner Home Video has remastered Bob Fosse's Cabaret for a sparkling new Blu-Ray book edition. When it was released in 1972, the film was a box office hit that went on to win eight Academy Awards, including Best Supporting Actor (for Joel Grey), Best Actress (for Liza Minnelli), and Best Director. (It lost Best Picture to The Godfather.) Cabaret has always been fondly remembered; on this new release, it looks and sounds magnificent, but just as importantly, the movie holds up astonishingly well.

Set in 1931 Berlin, Cabaret casts Minnelli as Sally Bowles, an aspiring movie star who gets her fix of the limelight by starring in a nightly production at the Kit Kat Klub. The club's “Master of Ceremonies,” fantastically played by Grey, is an over-the-top showman who enjoys tweaking the state of affairs in Berlin; his musical numbers tend to comment on the off-stage action we see. When a writer named Brian Roberts (Michael York) moves into Sally's boarding home, she immediately takes to him. Over time, they develop a relationship, only to discover that their lives are not on compatible paths. Germany is changing around them, forcing Sally and Brian to change right along with it.

I think Cabaret will be fascinating to viewers of a younger generation, who only know Liza Minnelli as either a relic of show-biz days gone by, or as a punch line due to her much-publicized addictions and her strange marriage to David Gest. This film is a reminder that she was (and still is) an enormously talented woman. Minnelli brings a ton of pizzazz to the musical numbers, and her performance as Sally is nuanced and continually surprising. Every time you think you have this character summed up, you're wrong. Joel Grey is equally fantastic. The Master of Ceremonies isn't your typical character, in that – with one or two specific exceptions – we only see him onstage performing, rather than interacting with others. His presence is felt, though, because his stage persona informs everything else in the film.

The movie's songs are catchy, and the choreography is dazzling, especially when Minnelli and Grey belt out “Money, Money.” (Check that clip out below.) I love how the tunes, with their often satiric lyrics and subtle political relevance, serve as punctuation to the plot, which often goes to dark places, especially toward the end. Cabaret is in some respects a typical feel-good musical, yet it's also so much deeper than that, as it looks at everything from the rise of Nazism to the dynamics of a relationship.

If you've never seen it before, now is the time. The movie's remastering is impressive, with rich colors that accentuate the story's tone. This Blu-Ray release additionally comes packed with bonus features, including an audio commentary from Fosse biographer Stephen Tropiano. “Cabaret: The Musical That Changed Musicals” is a new half-hour documentary, narrated by Neil Patrick Harris, that looks at the film's legacy and how it influenced big-screen musicals that came after it. Some vintage documentaries are included, too. “Cabaret: A Legend in the Making” runs 17 minutes and contains interviews with Minnelli and York, reflecting back on a piece of work they are rightfully proud of. “Recreating an Era” looks at how the production captured 1930s Germany. Also on the disc are “Kit Kat Klub Gallery,” which is a series of brief interviews with key participants, and the original theatrical trailer.

Cabaret comes in a beautiful Blu-Ray book format that contains 40 pages of photographs and text. All told, this is a beautiful package for an influential movie.

For more details on this release, please visit the Official WB Shop.

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