Roy Scheider plays (Joe Gideon) a hard driven, drinking, smoking choreographer / director / womanizer who - if he continues his antics - will be headed for an early grave. The film flashes forward and back in time with dreamlike interludes showing us that Joe is most likely already dead and recounting his life to a beautiful interlocutor (Jessica Lange).
All That Jazz, directed by famous choreographer Bob Fosse, basically ups the ante and pushes the envelope on such old Hollywood musical / dance films as 42nd Street. Instead of concentrating on the dancers and their lives, loves, disappointments and triumphs Fosse instead focuses on the unwavering passion and ultimate demise of the choreographer / director.
The one thing that really sets All That Jazz apart is its gritty, fatalistic tone. This is a film that cannot be mistaken for a film made in any other time in Hollywood; it is pure seventies; from the big hair to the flaired pants to the use of the zoom lens.
Scheider is clearly the alter ego of the film's director Bob Fosse and he does a great job playing a devil-may-care, cynical, exhausted, chain smoking wreck. At times it seems he is pushing it a little too hard; there is never any doubt that this guy's life is in disarray. The only time the film slows down is when Joe is with his young daughter (Erzsebet Fold) and the two women who mean the most to him, his ex-wife (Leland Palmer) and his current girlfriend (Ann Reinking).
The film also features some fine set pieces and dance numbers including an orgy dance, a comic, tragic number with Joe lying on his hospital bed in a respirator and a final Busbee Berkely style dance / death number complete with Broadway lights and glitter.
The best thing about All That Jazz is that Fosse seems to throw all caution to the wind in creating a beautiful mess of a movie. The main fault of the film is that the message of dying for one's art is so obvious that it loses its edge halfway through. However, it is still worth a look.