Sunday, April 24, 2011

Liza Minnelli in Cabaret

Liza Minnelli received her second Best Actress nomination and first Oscar for playing Sally Bowles, an American girl who desperately wants to become a movie star in the movie Cabaret. Liza Minnelli's role in Cabaret is something that equals Oscar and yet Liza's win wasn't as easy and obvious as it seems nowadays. Liza Minnelli had to compete against her good friend Diana Ross who had a biopic, which is a major advantage. However, Liza won, which caused a considerable amount of tears. 1972's Best Actress was a great drama itself.

Cabaret is so great that it's almost painful. I mean, OH-MY-GOD! I was totally blown away by Bob Fosse's achievement. It's such an intense and disturbing experience and tells so much about the world and people. I'm so mad that it was released in the same year as The Godfather (why did I want to write Casablanca, I never know). I think giving Best Director to Cabaret and Best Picture to The Godfather was the best decision the Academy could have made. They split the attention. Naturally, some keep bitching that Coppola didn't win and they are right but Fosse was also VERY worthy. Moreover, I think Joel Grey more than deserved his award (yes, over everyone else in the category).

Every movie has its sould somewhere. Sometimes it's hidden and you have to look for it. However, finding the sould of Cabaret is as easy as it can be. It's Liza Minnelli who keeps the movie together so thrillingly that Cabaret becomes something really special. You can rave about Joel Grey's acting, Michael York's innocence, Marisa Berenson's subtle desperation or Bob Fosse's fantastic direction. When they are compared to Liza Minnelli, who cares about them? Liza Minnelli turns in an earth-shattering performance as Sally Bowles, this young and carefree/careless girl. There's laughter, tear and amazement in Liza Minnelli's performance. Basically, she gives what acting was really made for, charming and moving the audience.

I'm not saying that I'm a big fan of Liza Minnelli but I'm an admirer of her undeniable, huge talent. She can do basically everything. She can sing, dance, act, you name it. She's got show-business in her blood. That's what she inherited from her family. People often make the huge mistake of comparing her to her mother, Judy Garland. Everybody wants to decide who's the more talented. I don't want to make this comparision but Liza as Sally Bowles has the same effect as her mother as Esther Blodgett in A Star is Born. Ironically, this is the role that (as Marlene Dietrich said) let Liza leave the shadow of her mother. She's Liza Minnelli, not Judy Garland's daughter Liza Minnelli. She's Liza Minnelli.

Sally Bowles is a fantastic character. She's very bohemian, careless and always wants to enjoy the present and everything. Yes, she sleeps around, yes, she drinks too much but she likes her life. She's desperate to become a movie star, something that she will probably never be. Liza so brilliantly showed Sally's determination to succeed. I would say that Sally had a really strong willpower and she didn't want to give up her dreams. The fire, the lust, the desire are all in Liza's big eyes. The way she looks at anyone is both hilarious and heartbreaking. You can't help but feeling ambivalent about Sally and it was so great how Liza let us feel that way. You have fun at the stupid things of Sally but you can also feel so sorry for her.

Liza brilliantly found the balance between the comedy and the drama of this character. How could you not laugh your head of when you're listening to her horrible German or when she's playing the femme fatale. The timing and the line readings are all so perfect. That English lesson with the delicate, young woman having a conversation about health and then Liza starting to talk about some rather quite unlpeasent diseases. And then there are moments when you're totally heartbroken like when Sally's father lets her down or when she reaveals the horrible truth in the end. It's really painful to watch her there. Liza got across Sally's misery so thrillingly. Moreover, I also loved when Liza made Sally a bit like Pookie Adams from The Sterile Cockoo. Don't misunderstand me, she's not repetitive at all, except for her brilliance. :)

And the songs! Those songs! From Mein Herr to Cabaret, they are all so fascinatingly performed by the fabulous Liza. Oh, my goodness. In most musicals the characters start singing spontaneously but in Cabaret there's a function for everything. The songs really help you a lot and Liza really rocks in those scenes. I mean, really. Mein Herr or Maybe This Time are fantastic even though my favorite is Cabaret. The amount of emotions that are present there are so overwhelming and gave me chills. Liza goes on acting and adds so much of Sally's pain into that song. She sings slower and slower and it becomes mindblowingly effective.

However, I have to stop at some point because I could praise Liza Minnelli endlessly for this huge, unforgettable and wonderful performance as Sally Bowles. Liza Minnelli is the heart and soul of this brilliant movie and if I may say so, she gives the best performance ever in a musical, in my humble opinion. I'm not a fan of the genre but I'm crazy about this one. You can watch Liza over and over again in this movie but you'll have just as much fun and you'll be just as touched as you were for the first time. B-R-I-L-L-I-A-N-T.

What do you think?


Anonymous said...

Going according to plan....

Louis Morgan said...

Most certainly a brilliant performance, in a strong film.

Anonymous said...

This is such an interesting and entrancing performance. She's such a unique Oscar character, and definitely iconic. I agree with you, though I'm in need of a rewatch.