Cabaret is a 1972 American musical drama film directed by Bob Fosse, and starring Liza Minnelli, Michael York, and Joel Grey.
Set in Berlin during the Weimar Republic in 1931, under the presence of the growing Nazi Party, the film is loosely based on the 1966 Broadway musical Cabaret by Kander and Ebb, which was adapted from the novel The Berlin Stories / Goodbye to Berlin (1939) by Christopher Isherwood and the 1951 play I Am a Camera adapted from the same book. Only a few numbers from the stage score were used for the film; Kander and Ebb wrote new ones to replace those that were discarded. In the traditional manner of musical theater, called an “integrated musical”, every significant character in the stage version sings to express his or her own emotion and to advance the plot. In the film version, the musical numbers are entirely diegetic. All of them take place inside the club, with one exception: “Tomorrow Belongs to Me”, the only song sung neither by Grey’s character of the Kit Kat Klub’s Master of Ceremonies nor by Minnelli’s character of Sally Bowles.
In 1931 Berlin, young American Sally Bowles performs at the Kit Kat Klub. A new British arrival in the city, Brian Roberts, moves into the boarding house where Sally lives. A reserved academic and writer, Brian wants to give English lessons to earn a living while completing his doctorate. Sally tries to seduce Brian, but he tells her that on three previous occasions he has tried to have sexual relationships with women, all of which failed. They become friends, and Brian witnesses Sally’s bohemian life in the last days of the Weimar Republic. Much later in the movie, Sally and Brian become lovers, concluding that his previous failures with women were because they were “the wrong three girls”.
Maximilian von Heune, a rich playboy baron, befriends Sally and takes her and Brian to his country estate where they are both spoiled and courted. After an unexplained off-screen experience with Brian, Max drops his pursuit of the pair in anger. During an argument, Sally tells Brian that she has been having sex with Max, and Brian reveals that he has as well. Brian and Sally later reconcile, and Sally reveals that Max left them 300 marks and mockingly compares the sum with what a professional prostitute gets.
Sally learns that she is pregnant but is unsure of the father. Brian offers to marry her and take her back to his university life in Cambridge. At first, they celebrate their resolution to start this new life together, but after a picnic between Sally and Brian, in which Brian acts distant and uninterested, Sally becomes disheartened by the vision of herself as a bored faculty wife washing dirty diapers. Ultimately, she has an abortion, without informing Brian in advance. When he confronts her, she shares her fears, and the two reach an understanding. Brian departs for England, and Sally continues her life in Berlin, embedding herself in the Kit Kat Club.
A subplot concerns Fritz Wendel, a German Jew passing as a Protestant, who is in love with Natalia Landauer, a wealthy German Jewish heiress who holds him in contempt and suspects his motives. Sally advises him to be more aggressive, which eventually enables Fritz to win her love. However, to get her parents’ consent for their marriage, Fritz must reveal his religion, which he does and the two are married by a rabbi.
The Nazis’ violent rise is an ever-present undercurrent in the film. Their progress can be tracked through the characters’ changing actions and attitudes. While in the beginning of the film, a Nazi is kicked out of the Kit Kat Klub, the final shot of the film shows the cabaret’s audience is dominated by uniformed Nazis. The rise of the Nazis is also demonstrated in a rural beer garden scene when Max and Brian stop for drinks. A blonde boy – only his face is seen initially – sings to an audience of all ages (“Tomorrow Belongs To Me”) about the beauties of nature and youth. The camera shifts to show that the singer is wearing a brown Hitler Youth uniform.
The ballad gradually transforms into a militant Nazi anthem, one by one, nearly all the adults and young people watching rise and join in the singing. The song culminates with the singer donning his Hitler Youth cap and lifting his hand in the Nazi salute. Max and Brian return to their car after witnessing this show of growing support for the Nazi movement, where Brian asks Max, “Do you still think you can control them?” Later, Brian’s confrontation with a Nazi in the streets of Berlin leads to nothing but him being beaten.
While he does not play a role in the main plot, the “Master of Ceremonies” serves a background role throughout the film. His intermittent songs in the Kit Kat Klub are increasingly risqué and pointedly mock the Nazis initially, while a later song reveals the growing acceptance of anti-Semitism. (by wikipedia)
All the songs were written by Kander and Ebb, mostly for the 1966 Broadway production. It starts and ends with a cymbal stroke. The style is inspired by old cabaret and burlesque songs in Berlin and by Kurt Weill. Willkommen is sung by Joel Grey, who worked hard on his German accent and who was in the original Broadway cast. The first original Mein Herr introduces Liza Minnelli as Sally Bowles. Maybe This Time was already recorded by her in 1964.
The satirical Money, Money uses the sound of the cash register, like Pink Floyd one year later. If You Could See Her is a comical song with a serious undertone, in which the ape represents a non-Aryan. Tomorrow Belongs to Me announces the rise of the Nazi movement. Cabaret is the apotheosis in which Liza gives her everything and proves what a unique theatrical performer and vocalist she is. It’s a musical representation of the conflicting ideologies in the early thirties. Cabaret represents life and life is a cabaret. (Bonnie Laurel)
Ralph Burns Orchestra
Joel Grey – Liza Minnelli – Mark Lambert – Greta Keller
01. Joel Grey: Willkommen 4.31
02. Liza Minnelli: Mein Herr 3.37
03. Liza Minnelli: Maybe This Time 3.11
04. Joel Grey, Liza Minnelli: Money, Money 3.05
05. Joel Grey: Two Ladies 3.12
06. Sitting Pretty (Instrumental) 2.27
07. Mark Lambert: Tomorrow Belongs To Me 3.07
08. Joel Grey: Tiller Girls 1.41
09. Greta Keller: Heiraten (Married) 3.35
10. Joel Grey: If You Could See Her 3.55
11. Liza Minnelli: Cabaret 3.35
12. Joel Grey: Finale 2.29
Lyrics: Fred Ebb