Cabaret – Review (Spoiler Free)

NaziBawdy, moving, joyful, and chilling – Cabaret confidently weaves through each of these states with apparent ease.

Set in Berlin in 1931, we follow a group of individuals through a decadent world in which morals are loose, sex is everywhere, and the Nazi party is beginning to rise in popularity and power. The primary focus lies on Minnelli’s Sally Bowles; a singer at the Kit Kat Club who aspires to be a great actress, and it’s a role in which Minnelli excels. The only actor which truly threatens to steal attention away from her is Joel Grey who masterfully plays his narrator role; controlling our attention and creating an absorbing and layered character.

The other actors should not be forgotten, they all do a fine job in their roles and they are not as overshadowed by Minnelli and Grey as I have perhaps suggested. If they were this would be a lesser film; it’s the spread of nationalities, religions and attitudes found across the cast of characters which helps to lift this film well above and beyond the average musical. Although, Minnelli and Grey do get an additional focus because they are the only members of the central cast to sing songs during the film. And it has to be said that there are several very memorable songs here, ‘Mein Herr’, ‘Cabaret’ and ‘Tomorrow Belongs to Me’ being amongst the very best.

Cabaret is by turns a cheerful, fun experience as Minnelli belts out her songs and it’s also a decidedly unsettling one. There aren’t many films in my opinion which use the Nazi’s so effectively as Cabaret does. It weaves them into the narrative in such a way that it makes the film have a uniquely disturbing edge to it. Don’t let that put you off if you like musicals and don’t want to see a historical war film, it first and foremost is a musical. And yet, I know of several people who dislike musicals and yet like Cabaret because you don’t have people bursting into song unrealistically, as they are all sung somewhere logical. Basically, I urge you to give Cabaret a go regardless of whether you normally like musicals or not, it’s a powerful little film and it should definitely leave an impression.

Summary:

What is the film’s greatest strength?
The way that the growing Nazi threat is interwoven with what at first appears to be a disconnected story of sex, love and aspirations.

Its greatest weakness?
There’s the suggestion made that a woman can enjoy being forced into sex, which is a shame.

Would I see it again?
Absolutely, I’ve already seen this film many times and it is in fact my second favourite musical, right after Singin’ in the Rain.

Thank you for reading, leave your thoughts in the comment box below!

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20 comments

  1. Great post, I’ve always thought that for a musical Cabaret certainly has a very dark undercurrent.

    1. Cheers, it most certainly does!

  2. Not my kind of film but great write up as always buddy! Love that poster for some weird reason 🙂

    1. Thanks man 🙂 I know – it’s really cool isn’t it! It’s actually the Polish poster for the film, I often find that they do good ones.

  3. Nice review! This is a classic film that I’ve still yet to see. I keep saying I’m going to watch it but for some reason I push it back. Thanks for the review. Maybe it will spur me to finally sit down with it.

    1. Thanks Keith! I certainly hope that you do end up watching it, and would be interested in what you think. I know a few people who don’t like it but the overwhelming response tends to be positive.

  4. I am a bit of a musical theatre junkie of late and yet I still have not seen this film. Your review has given me the push to go watch it though so thank you! Great post

    1. Excellent – Let me know what you think!
      Thank you 🙂

  5. Great review. Really want to check this one out.

    1. Thanks, you should! It is definitely worth a shot.

  6. Fantastic review. I saw and reviewed this not so long ago and it absolutely blew me away. I don’t recall noticing the bit you mention as the film’s great weakness. Unless I have forgotten it, because that is the kind of thing that would really bother me about a film too.

    1. Thank you very much! I first saw this a few years back and it strongly affected me too.
      It’s a very minor point but the suggestion, I think is there.
      SPOILERS:
      When Fritz jumps Natalia and roughly begins trying to seduce her, she explains that she strongly resists him until suddenly she begins to enjoy it. It’s not a massive point but it makes me a little uncomfortable – it reminds me of old Bond films and how Connery would basically rape a woman until she would give in and enjoy it.

      1. Thanks mate. It is bringing up vague memories. Doesn’t matter that it was not a major point. It does happen far too often in films and it really bothers me too.

        1. Yeah, I think it is looked over because we don’t actually witness the event, instead only hear Natalia talking about it. That and the fact that the film doesn’t seem to level any criticism at that moment.

  7. Great review James. Boy I had no idea this film has something to do w/ Nazis. I love Singing in the Rain so I should give this a shot at some point.

    1. Cheers Ruth! I think a lot of people, myself included, come to Cabaret thinking it’s more of a lighthearted song and dance type film – but that’s pretty far from the truth!
      You’ll have to let me know how you find it!

  8. Must confess to never seeing this one.

    1. Oh you should! It is a great film and isn’t your typical musical.

      1. that is good cause I typically don’t go for musicals other than the sound of music. Although I just saw Rock of Ages and that was stupid cheesy fun.

        1. I’m not a big musical fan either, I think the believable usage of songs helps. A lot of viewers seem to struggle when people randomly burst into song in a musical, but that doesn’t happen in Cabaret.

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