Steven Downes


The musical films of Bob Fosse, 'Sweet Charity' (1969), 'Cabaret' (1972), and 'All That Jazz' (1979) offer a radical alternative to the ‘arcadian’ musical format with edgier and darker themes as a response to the rapidly developing socio-politico climate and the sexual revolution. However, although 'Cabaret' remains well documented, his other musical films 'Sweet Charity' and 'All That Jazz', remain primarily neglected in academia, which I will rectify. Moreover, while many prolific writers and scholars, including Laura Mulvey and Rick Altman, have previously analysed the movie and film musical from a heteronormative male gaze perspective, this is at odds with Fosse’s approach to filmmaking, which often subverts such a hypothesis. My line of enquiry consequently developed to explore the link between filming styles and representations of gender and sexuality in Fosse’s films over a ten-year period and observe the various shifts in register. This approach eschews the more bibliographical texts, monographs, and documentaries about Fosse, allowing me to study his films critically from a unique perspective. Using a variety of methodologies and theories, including the social history of art, semiotics, feminism, formalism, and film studies, I will analyse selected case studies where the intersection between filming styles and representations of sexuality are most pertinent/interesting to my central argument. In the process, I will often refer to the terminologies ‘visual reflexivity’ and ‘theatrical reflexivity’ to explore this phenomenon and examine how they interact with gender in 'Sweet Charity', 'Cabaret', and 'All That Jazz' through techniques such as film editing and camera angles, as well as performative arts. Furthermore, Fosse’s radical use of cinematic space, including altered states of consciousness, is also explored coinciding with the backstage musicals’ shift from the ‘book musical’ to ‘concept musical’, in line with modern audiences’ expectations and avant-garde approaches to the genre.

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Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License