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As the Nazis rise to power in a decadent pre-war Berlin, Sally Bowles (Lisa Minnelli), a mediocre American singer in a seedy nightclub, becomes involved with an English language teacher (Michael York) and a duplicitous German aristocrat (Helmut Griem). The leeringly cynical club emcee (Joel Grey) sees all, knows all, but Sally, desperate to be a star, is oblivious to the political maelstrom swirling outside of the Kit-Kat Klub and what that means for Natalia (Marisa Berensen) a young Jewish department store heiress, and her sweetheart, who are caught up in the anti-Semitic swell.

Review by Keith Lofthouse:
“Leave your troubles outside; in here, life is beautiful,” cajoled the glibly theatrical emcee as he welcomes patrons to the Kit Kat Klub, a sleazy, smoke-filled bohemian hang-out in central Berlin, circa 1931. Here, the headline attraction is Sally Bowles who, backed by a chorus line of sexually ambiguous frauleins, belts out rounds of bawdy and ribald songs with bold and brassy abandon. Meanwhile, the “troubles outside” escalate into violence against all Jews and their sympathisers and we realise the songs, that are almost entirely contained within the claustrophobic confines of the club, are a sardonic commentary on the burbling unrest. The personal ménage á trois that Sally entangles herself in runs parallel with the atmosphere of moral anarchy in which the leather-clad boot-clickers of the Third Reich thrived. And when it all erupts at an alfresco café as the sunny-faced young fascists rise to a rousing rendition of Tomorrow Belongs To Me, it has all the chilling menace of a call to arms. (Cut from the original German release print, the song became an anthem for the neo-Nazi movement, while British skinhead band Screwdriver have covered it on their album, Hail The New Dawn). 

Winner of eight Oscars, this timeless musical - inspired by the 1960’s Broadway show that was adapted from the John van Druten stage play I Am A Camera, which in turn is based on Christopher Isherwood’s factual Goodbye To Berlin tales - is the most eminent translation of them all. Stripping the Broadway version of its dross, dropping the dreariest of its songs and adding others, the film is a Fosse tour de force: a daring and dazzling union of politics and brilliantly choreographed song and dance; one of those rare musicals that score a bullseye in terms of substance and style. This is the film that its Oscar-winning director and stars (Minnelli, Grey) will always be remembered for; the one that established Minnelli, in her first singing role, as a star in her own right after being shadowed in her formative years by Judy Garland, her famous but tragic mum. Just as Barbra Streisand was no Dolly Levi, Minnelli is not, by rights, an ideal Sally Bowles. She is clearly not the no-account talent that the singer was meant to be. But, just as Streisand gave life to Dolly, Minnelli brings such vitality and vibrancy to the role that no-one dared suggest, and who could imagine, a better Bowles. 

Published November 13, 2003

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(US) - 1972

CAST: Liza Minnelli, Michael York, Joel Grey


SCRIPT: Jay Presson Allen

RUNNING TIME: 124 minutes

PRESENTATION: 16: 9 Widescreen

SPECIAL FEATURES: Trivia quiz, photo gallery.


DVD RELEASE: November 10, 2003

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