Surely one of cinema's most outrageous feats of egotism, Bob Fosse's All That Jazz borrows from (and perhaps seeks to upstage) Federico Fellini's autobiographical classic 8 1/2, which magically transformed self-regard into art and made a conscious claim for its director's genius. By standing on a giant's shoulders, Fosse courts charges of flagrant navel-gazing, while working off the presumption that an audience will want to care about a tortured artist chased by demons of his own making. Like Fellini, Fosse could only justify this project by convincing people of his brilliance. Otherwise, what interest remains in a pill-popping, chain-smoking womanizer who routinely betrays and neglects his loved ones? Yet with a sly wink and a devil's grin, courtesy of uncanny alter ego Roy Scheider, Fosse absorbs and defuses any criticism that could be leveled against him, constantly poking holes in his inflated reputation. He counters every piece of show-stopping craft, such as the dazzling cattle call that opens the 1979 film, with bitter, excoriating truths about his weaknesses and regrets, coming clean about the bad behavior that he correctly predicts will lead him to an early grave. A dense and often exhausting ordeal, All That Jazz tries to function as art and entertainment, preferably at the same time, which makes it either an exceptionally dark musical-comedy or an unusually buoyant death wish. As the Fosse doppelgänger, Scheider scurries from the rehearsals for his latest Broadway opus to the cutting room for his Lenny-like biopic, hounded by panicked producers, wannabe starlets, jilted lovers, and an ex-wife (Leland Palmer) and neglected daughter. Barely propped up by a morning brew of Dexedrine, Alka-Seltzer, eye drops, and Vivaldi, Scheider responds poorly to his pressure-filled schedule, with each day driving him closer to cardiac arrest. Aware of his declining health, Scheider literally flirts with Death, which here takes the angelic form of Jessica Lange, who hangs around his conscience and indulges his numerous confessions. An entertainer first and foremost–every day, Scheider greets his mirror image with a rousing "It's showtime, folks!"–Fosse spins his runaway narcissism into self-effacing humor and filters the darkest themes through electrifying song-and-dance numbers. The musical sequences are a lesson in choreography, not just for Fosse's renowned wit and invention in handling his dancers, but also in the editing, which fuses music and movement in perfectly timed cuts. In addition to a spare but informative commentary track by Scheider, the DVD offers five brief clips of Fosse in action, as he micromanages scores of dancers for the opening audition sequence, assuring that not a step (or intentional misstep) is out of place. A monument to Fosse's obsessive craft, All That Jazz insists that the show must go on, even if it takes the ultimate toll.

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