Liza Minnelli, Cabaret

Monday, January 09, 2006

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Pauline Kael

"Joel Grey, Bob Fosse, and Liza Minnelli are all children of show-business families, and that may be why they understand these musical numbers so shatteringly well. Liza Minnelli's exuberant, corruptible Sally, going after fame and stardom no matter what, has that persistent spark--the amoral soul of theatre. Her emerald-green fingernails are no longer just the mark of a girl who wants to be shockingly original; Sally is no longer just an innocently and adorably mad gamine, older sister to Holly Golightly. This Sally has grown claws. The m.c. has burnt out his hopes, but she has youth and drive. He presides over a sinking ship and enjoys the spiteful knowledge of how tacky it is. But Sally, at the end, beckoning with those nails, has real force. Liza Minnelli makes you believe in the cabaret as "life" because she comes fully to life only when she sings. The features that seemed too large for her face suddenly fit. Her cherry lips and unnaturally bright eyes are no longer wild makeup; they belong to her performer's face. And her movements have speed and tension. Her desperation and Sally's are fused together; when a singer is belting it out, how can one separate the performer from the role? Liza Minnelli is a fine, if slightly overeager actress and inventive, appealing comedienne, but only when she sings is she a star: she's charged to give all she's got....

"There are a few minor imperfections.... But ... I can see no major faults. My ideal musical would include far more dancing, but this conception doesn't allow for it, and that is hardly a fault. What dancing there is--which is mostly movement during songs--is marvellous, particularly that of Liza Minnelli and Joe Grey in the "Money" number, and of Grey and the shy gorill lady ... in ... "If You Could See Her." And there's a brief goose-stepping dance ... that has prurient images worthy of Lautrec; Liza Minnelli, too, when she sings takes positions--the way she leads with her truculent shoulders, her small flapper-head like a predatory bird's--that suggest Lautrec's posters...."

Pauline Kael
The New Yorker, February 19, 1972
Deeper Into Movies, p. 411-12