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Chicago the Movie


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#1 Old Fashioned

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Posted 10 December 2002 - 04:40 PM

Anyone else as excited as I am?

#2 dirac

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Posted 10 December 2002 - 05:11 PM

Well, I'm moderately excited. Any ambitious new movie musical is an event these days, of course. I have serious doubts about Richard Gere in that role, but you never know. I also wish very intensely that Bob Fosse were still around to direct.

I was interested to read that the filmmakers decided to present the musical numbers as imagined events -- something going on in Roxie's head -- because they decided that audiences wouldn't accept the characters singing and dancing straight out. Even if this film is a success, that's not a good sign for future musicals.

#3 Old Fashioned

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Posted 10 December 2002 - 09:11 PM

Originally posted by dirac
I have serious doubts about Richard Gere in that role, but you never know.  I also wish very intensely that Bob Fosse were still around to direct.


I totally agree with you on that. There's a clip somewhere around online of him singing "Razzle Dazzle" and sounded...strange...(what kind of accent is he using?). Hugh Jackman would be so much better in the role, if only he didn't have to do an X-men sequel. I wish Fosse was alive, also, and have Bette Midler and Liza star in it as original planned (the movie would have been shot much earlier, though). I'm still looking forward to seeing Catherine Zeta-Jones- who I hear is amazing in it- and Renee Zellweger star as the "merry murderesses."

I didn't know that the movie was through the eyes and imagination of Roxie, but it seems pretty clever to me. I read a review of it already and the critic actually criticized it for being too theatrical and wasn't filmed like a movie. The critic went on to compare it to Cabaret, and said Cabaret was "movie"-like while Chicago was like a filming of a stage production.

#4 Mel Johnson

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Posted 11 December 2002 - 04:48 AM

There's an inherent difference between Cabaret and Chicago, though. In making the movie of the former, they had to re-write and make a screenplay out of what had become a rather poor formula musical that stayed alive on Broadway largely on star-power. Christopher Isherwood was dead, so that took him out of the picture, and a good thing, as one of the things that injured the stage show was his insistence on erasing all reference to his homosexuality! He'd been out for years, what with Berlin Stories and I am a Camera, but for some reason, he didn't want it mentioned! Well, that was "Herr Issyvoo" for you.

#5 Ari

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Posted 11 December 2002 - 07:00 AM

I think this is the article that dirac read:

http://www.playbill....how&code=114336

#6 Mary J

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Posted 11 December 2002 - 07:37 AM

Hugh Jackman would have been perfect! I saw him in a concert version of Carousel last Spring - it is delightful how someone so gorgeous can be so talented! He has a very attractive singing voice.

#7 dirac

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Posted 11 December 2002 - 11:11 AM

I did not read anything from Playbill, but don't recall offhand where I did see it.


I haven't seen the stage show, but I did read both adaptations, including the Van Druten non-musical one. I thought a flaw in all of the adaptations, including the film, was that the original story was remodeled into a Star Vehicle, with virtually everything set up to showcase adorable quirky Sally. To a certain extent, this was unavoidable that's showbiz. But it did mean that less attractive sides of Sally's personality were elided, she has WAY too much talent, and so on. (I thought Minnelli's final number in the movie, performed in bravura Liza At the Palace style, was especially ludicrous.)


I think I know why Isherwood didn't want homosexuality mentioned. It wasn't squeamishness, since as Mel notes Isherwood was always very open, even militant, in such matters. But not in his art, until his later novels. If you inject a sex plot where it was not intended to be, you don't expand the meanings you contract them. Issy doesn't have any sex in the original; his sexuality is suggested but not stated. A central part of Isherwood's artistic method is based on what is not said. It's not always an advance, or an improvement, to shout from the rooftops what need only be implied. In the film, Issyvoo "progresses" to two sexes, and it's too much.

He didn't die until the mid-eighties, I'm pretty sure.

#8 Mel Johnson

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Posted 11 December 2002 - 02:09 PM

You are correct; I must have been thinking of W.H. Auden, who died in 1973. Forgive me, it was early this morning!;)

#9 dirac

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Posted 11 December 2002 - 04:34 PM

Returning to the Gere issue, while I am always happy to see Hugh Jackman, we need someone a little, well sleazier. I'm thinking Kevin Spacey, although I don't know if he can sing.

#10 Ari

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Posted 20 December 2002 - 09:54 AM

I saw a preview of the movie last night. Overall I think it's a success, and one of the best film adaptations of a stage musical I've seen. But since most movie versions of stage musicals are dreadful, this is not very high praise. Generally, though, I think it's a good movie. Not as good as the stage version, but that's to be expected.

Bill Condon, who wrote the screenplay, and Rob Marshall, the director, have solved the problem of movie actors looking silly when they suddenly burst into song by making all the musical numbers take place in Roxie Hart's imagination. This works, but it does get a little repetitious. The frenetic editing at the beginning of the film, very MTV, worried me, but the movie then settled down to a headache-free pace.

It's been five years since I've seen the show, so I can't comment with great authority about how much was left out or what was added, but I'm very familiar with the CD and noticed that several songs were cut. This didn't bother me except for one song, "Class," which I adore. The Playbill article linked above tells why they had to cut it, and I understand, but still wish that audiences who will never see the stage show could have gotten a chance to hear it. Fortunately, it'll be included in the DVD and CD.

None of the three principals — Renee Zellweger, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Richard Gere — can sing or dance well, and this affects their performances in different ways. Zellweger has enough acting to do (and she does it so well) that you don't notice it too much, but Zeta-Jones doesn't look like a dancer (she's a bit, um, fleshy). Gere's singing and dancing made me cringe. He acts well enough, but I would have much preferred to see someone else in the role. dirac, Kevin Spacey was reportedly offered the part but turned it down to do something else, and he would have been a big improvement. (He can sing, but I don't know if he can dance.)

They've made Roxie a more sympathetic character than she is onstage, and the whole film comes across as less cynical. Zellweger balances Roxie's hardness and naiveté very well. But Zeta-Jones's performance didn't work for me. She wasn't "low" enough, too ladylike, too soft in a way. I didn't believe that she'd lived the kind of hard life she describes, and her inflections in the singing didn't have the punch that I've heard from other singers. Watching Christine Baranski, who really can sing and dance, in the small role of Mary Sunshine, it was hard not to think what a better Velma she would have been. Queen Latifah as Mama Morton and John C. Reilly as Amos Hart were both wonderful. Chita Rivera, the original (1975) Velma, can be spotted in a tiny cameo, and at the end of the closing credits there's a reprise of "All That Jazz" by an uncredited singer who sounds a great deal like Bebe Neuwirth, the original Velma of the 1996 Broadway revival.

#11 archaeo

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Posted 20 December 2002 - 11:24 AM

It's interesting that you say that Catherine Zeta Jones doesn't sing or dance well, since she began her career in musical thatre.

The sister of a friend of mine was one of the dancers in the film, so I am looking forward to seeing it.

My online researches haven't turned up any credits for the dancers, which I find disappointing to say the least. Also, I gather that none of the dancers were invited to the premiere of the movie.

#12 dirac

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Posted 20 December 2002 - 12:11 PM

It's unfortunate that actors singing in context are regarded as "looking silly." Especially so because there is really no way to have a genuine revival of movie musicals without that convention -- there are only so many showbiz stories out there, and too many "fantasy" or "dream" sequences and your actors will look not only silly but crazy.

#13 Old Fashioned

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Posted 20 December 2002 - 01:56 PM

That's really odd, Ari. I keep reading rave reviews about Zeta-Jones and how she outshines Zellweger song and dance wise, but I can't judge for myself cuz I haven't seen it yet. I wish I could have gone to the early screening of it here in Houston, but it was a school night with finals coming up, so that was out of the question...

"Zeta-Jones doesn't look like a dancer (she's a bit, um, fleshy)." A bit harsh, isn't it? :) I know her body can't compare to the ballet dancers of today, but why should it affect an actress in a jazz/musical role?

#14 dirac

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Posted 20 December 2002 - 02:03 PM

Yes, and it might even make Zeta-Jones a little closer to the showgirls of that era, who were well upholstered.

#15 Ari

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Posted 20 December 2002 - 04:28 PM

About Zeta-Jones: I've been thinking about why she seemed out of place in the movie, and I think it's because Chicago is a lean, hard, tough musical, and she was soft, plush, and sensual. The era it's set in may be the twenties, but the work itself is from 1975 . . . and 2002, when the movie was made. It doesn't purport to recreate the era it's set in; none of it was filmed on location and there is no "Chicago in the twenties" thing about it. It's set in the twenties because the play it's based on was written then. But what made the show such a big hit when Encores revived it six years ago was its immediacy — the Simpson trial had just ended and everyone was talking about how prophetic the show had been in 1975. It's a fable about today, not the twenties.

Archaeo, I'd heard that CZJ has a musical theater background, but I didn't see evidence of it here. And bear in mind that this is just my opinion — others may think I'm all wrong. :)


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