Cabaret

AFI Rank: #63 (10th anniversary ranking)
Year Released: 1972
Director: Bob Fosse
Actors: Liza Minnelli, Michael York, Helmut Griem, Joel Grey, Fritz Wepper

For some reason, despite the amazing number of awards that Cabaret won when it was released in 1972, it was excluded completely from the first version of the AFI Top 100 listing. It was only on the revote ten years later that it vaulted all the way up to the #63 spot. Clearly many people felt that the movie deserved to be included along with the other classics.

It's intriguing that An American in Paris and My Fair Lady both came off of the listing. I wonder if voters felt we were ready for a more hard-hitting, realistic musical to join the list. Cabaret tackles issues of abortion, threesomes, bisexuality, and of course the encroaching power of the Nazis. It does it all with fantastic acting, fantastic dancing, and music that stays with you long after the film ends.

The movie also shines in that, in a world where many top movies have NO speaking women in them, Cabaret features many great female roles. Of course Liza Minnelli is spectacular as Sally Bowles, the cabaret dancer who dreams of being an actress. But we have many other supporting female roles which have just as much power. You can feel Natalia's pain as she is drawn to Fritz but is concerned about the growing danger around them.

Much of this movie feels like watching an approaching train wreck and being powerless to stop it. You start to see the small hints of the Nazi rise to power, and how the characters feel it is a passing fad. They dismiss it. And yet over time it grows and grows - and soon it is impossible to rein them in.

I've seen this numerous times and each time it strikes me with fresh power. The dialogue, the characters, the emotions in their eyes. You can feel the hurt and shadows behind Minnelli's bright smile. You can see the concern in York's eyes, and how he brings himself to believe things might work.

Highly recommended.

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AFI Top 100 Film Listing
Male vs Female Actors in the AFI Top 100
The Bechdel Test in the AFI Top 100