Despite having watched thousands of films, this is my first time out with Cabaret.
I think as a younger viewer I turned my nose up a little about films peppered with songs. We all do stupid stuff when we’re young. Boy was I missing out. I’m finally welcomed to Berlin in 1931. A city and story spilt between Nazis out on the streets and decadent performances in the clubs… or the Kit Kat Klub at the very least. Brian (Michael York) is new in town finding himself a room in a boarding house with amongst others, Sally (Liza Minnelli). He’s a bit overwhelmed by Sally and he’s a right to be, she’s a whirlwind. The Kit Kat is where Sally works and where we spend much of the time to start. It’s a bit of a dump, wooden boarded stage and minimal props, but what Sally can’t do with a chair isn’t worth knowing. She’s undeniably the life-force of Cabaret, singing, dancing and flirting, but there’s a wonderful supporting cast too. York’s Brian, prim and uninterested in women (until Sally) is the perfect counter. He’s calm, but equally delightful. Teaching English to make ends meet and… make inroads in Berlin society, although not always to his pleasure. Amongst the frivolity on stage, much of which is orchestrated by the Kit Kat’s ghoulish unblinking Master of Ceremonies (Joel Grey) who only seems to exist on stage. Encouraging mud wrestlers and mocking Nazis. There’s plenty of humour off it too. Minnelli again proving her comic chops, often at poor Brian’s embarrassment. That seems to be the core of this. Despite the rise of the Nazis and the poverty they live in “Life is a cabaret!”… except it’s not is it. Sally and Brian make a great onscreen duo, two lost souls, trying to make sense of or simply find happiness beyond the surface fun, but as great as Minnelli is and she really is, I can’t help the sense that she’s playing herself (perhaps though she’s simply that brilliant). York though is the control. His performance more measured. The realist with a heart. For a while things seem to work in their ramshackle existence. The fun never lasts though does it. Sally, naive, all wide eyed nervous laughter with no off switch, drags Brian into a world he’s unsuited for. Not just the decadence, but the rise of a fascist society. Which will ultimately lead them to choices, subtlety handled in the closing scenes. It’s very good, quite unusual, a little flawed but with enough depth to make it work and to be honest there’s not that many songs.