I don’t like musicals.
However…a musical is one of my favorite movies, and has my alltime favorite final shot. That movie is ALL THAT JAZZ. So I am in the process of watching FOSSE/VERDON, about the director of ALL THAT JAZZ, Bob Fosse, and his wife, Gwen Verdon.
For the first 16 minutes, the show does a decent enough job of showing Fosse and Verdon. To me, Sam Rockwell is doing a good job of imitating Fosse, while Michelle Williams is like Gwen Verdon reincarnated. It’s worth seeing the show to watch her.
Then there’s a scene of Fosse having dinner with producer Cy Feur, played by Paul Reiser.
It’s interesting that a search on YouTube doesn’t show this scene extracted from the show. It’s one of the best examples of the often-repeated/seldom-explained rule, “Show, don’t tell.”
In the scene, Fosse is having dinner with the producer of CABARET (which I found a snooze). Feur, the producer who’s looking for a director, expresses his feeling that Fosse isn’t the director for this project.
It’s not your kind of thing, Bob. You do style. This is about war, and Nazis, and Jews, and pain.
Fosse then asks Feur if he’s served. See, Fosse explains, when I was in the service, my job was to entertain wounded soldiers.
While Fosse talks about dancing and trying to entertain the wounded, the camera moves away, and shows a young Fosse, in a sailor suit, dancing away before several soldiers in a hospital, their limbs and faces ravaged by war.
Rockwell-as-Fosse is telling him this story.
But we, the audience, SEE the story, and immeditately FEEL what Fosse is trying to tell Feur: Fosse is known for stylish entertainment but, unlike the producer, Fosse LIVED the experience of injecting some showbiz flash into a war- and death-drenched situation.
It’s reminiscent of the style Fosse used in ALL THAT JAZZ, and at the same time it makes us feel what Feur felt, which is so important to giving the viewer a stake in the story. We FEEL Fosse’s desire to make this movie, and we FEEL Feur’s feelings about what Fosse is telling him.
This is masterful storytelling.
It’s worth checking out the first episode of this series just for this 2-minute scene.
(Fosse got the job on CABARET. He won the Oscar for Best Director, beating out Francis Coppola for THE GODFATHER.)