Every year as soon as daylight saving hits, I fall back into my Bob Fosse obsession. This month, in addition to mainlining his films, interviews, clips, I’m rereading Sam Wasson’s excellent Fosse biography and feeling new empathy for the dancer/choreographer/director’s struggles. Many, many people are boozers, pill poppers, cheaters, nihilists. What distinguished Fosse was the depth and charge of his creative solution to those shadows.* It’s a solution I crave.
In Fosse’s works flowed the brass tacks of vaudeville, the flourishes of the MGM musical, the liquid grace of jazz filtered through his uniquely from-the-hip economy. All of it—from the depressive cheer of “We Got the Pain” to the death drag of “All That Jazz”— paved the way for the 21st century’s “irony-is-the-new-black” ethos, eros, aesthetic. Every major icon of the last 50 years owes Fosse – from Michael Jackson to Liza to Madonna to Britney to Lady Gaga and even Beyoncé. Fashion would not be fashion without his exposed garter belts and fishnet stockings. The world is still catching up with his matter-of-fact-jack on sexuality and race.
Just look at this Little Prince (1974) scene, possibly Fosse’s last dance on film. The gloves, glasses, black ruffles, hip and neck swivels, pelvis thrusts, flexed fingers, shoulder shimmies, heel-to-toework is all so modern—so timeless, really. It’s Michael Jackson a decade later. Bojangles 50 years before. And something delightedly, self-consciously Fosse that will always charm us.
*The downfall of most biopics is an overemphasis on the demons of seminal talents rather than their unique achievements.
November 28, 2021 in Essays, Etiquette Matters, Film Matters, Ruby Intuition, Spirit Matters, Theater Matters
I started this day obsessing over a missing fur muffler. Then I decided the remedy for such heedless materialism was a Stephen Sondheim deep-dive. I was mainlining everything by the recently deceased lyricist/composer when I learned one former suitor had just lost everything in a fire, another had died suddenly of a heart attack. With both people, my ego needs often eclipsed my compassion. Praying for their peace, I shook my head over the big deal I’d just been making over a scarf—not to mention the raw, unmatched longing derailing both relationships. Had this intuitive learned nothing? I flashed on how being unwanted by his mother had lent that same longing to all of SS’s productions, including Marriage Story, which in its own way is also a Sondheim production—at least in this (and one other) scene.
In the rest of Noah Baumbach’s thinly disguised account of his divorce, Adam Driver channels the writer/director’s fussy, righteous narcissism. But in this rendition of “Being Alive,” the actor channels Sondheim instead—namely, the redemption he personally experienced through Sondheim’s work, through theater in general. A former Marine who found outlet for his many variations of manhood at Juilliard, Driver captures that desperate desire to transform pain and isolation into something—anything!—so there’s meaning in despair. It’s a performance that embraces each of us in our imperfections. A performance that reaches across time and space.
At heart, “compassion” simply means “suffering with.” On this first night of Hannukah, the Jewish commemoration of light in the darkness, know that you are loved, you are whole, you are held. Above all, you are not alone.
November 21, 2021 in Age Matters, Church Matters, City Matters, Country Matters, Feminist Matters, Ruby Intuition