ALL THAT JAZZ -- AMC Carrollton, AMC Skyline, K-B Georgetown Square, Springfield Mall and Uptown.
It may be that the most colossal source of boredom in the world of culture is the currently pervasive Story Behind the Story. But the two have been so intimately entwined in recent years that it is no longer considered necessary for a work of art to be enjoyable to those unfamiliar with the circumstances of its creation. It is only on such an assumption that a film such as "All That Jazz" could be made.
Many skills have gone into this film, which has some clever moments, lots of appealing atmosphere and several captivating dance numbers. Its opening scene, a mammoth Broadway chorus audition, wittily says with a few nods and headshakes what took "chorus Line" an entire show.
But the point of this film would be peculiarly puzzling if one did not know the personal history of the filmmaker.
Bob Fosse, who directed, co-wrote and choreographed "All That Jazz," suffered a heart attack when he was rehearsing a Broadway musical ("Chicago") starring his former wife (Gwen Verdon). "All That Jazz" is the story of a director and choreographer who suffers a heart attack while rehearsing a Broadway musical starring his former wife. But even assuming, as the film does, that its hero is the most talented director-choregrapher who ever lived, and that he is, as the film also assumes, permanently irresistable to all women, including those whom he has treated with a carelessness that has the results of cruelty -- it fails to supply a reason why he, more than anyone else, should not die.
The tantalizing scenes of funny, grubby backstage life are overwhelmed by a long, maudlin, drawn-out saga of fears and fantasies connected with his possible death. There is a highly unappetizing view of his chest being cut open for surgery. There is an allegorical figure of a flirtatious woman in a bridal dress, apparently symbolizing Death as one more woman madly in love with this man. And there are at least half a dozen apparent death scenes with the hero's anticlimatic survival at the conclusion.
Yet the film never supplies the audience with a reason that the death of a callous man who has abused his body with drugs, cigarettes and careless living should be shocking. Unless one knows him, of course -- knows him, even second-hand, as a "real-life" celebrity.
In that case, one can appreciate that resemblance of actor Roy Scheider to Fosse. One can stop wondering why Leland Palmer, Erzsebet Foldi and Ann Reinking, playing his ex-wife, daughter and girl friend with charming peppiness, should care about him and merely accept, as reported gossip, that they do.
But you still have to wonder at the film character of the musical's backer who is told by his insurance company that he can make over $500,000 above expenses, without opening the show, if the director dies -- and still wishes the man well. Now there is a heroic character.