BU Film School

Friday, October 07, 2005

FT 540 Reading: All That Jazz

Screenplay info
Written by: Robert Alan Arthur and Bob Fosse
Film info: http://us.imdb.com/Title?0078754

Synopsis
Joe gets an injection of morphine.

Hallucintary dressing room (HDR). Joe is balancing on a high wire as Angelique watches. "To be on the wire is life: the rest is waiting." He'd gotten the quote from somewhere else. He tries on hats, seeking her approval.

Joe gets ready for work. He plays Vivaldi, puts Visine in eyes, takes Alka-Seltzer and ice-cold shower, swallows several Dexedrine pills, drinks coffee. "It's showtime, folks!"

Cattle call for show Joe will be directing and choreographing. Series of dissolves with dancers doing routine, being weeded out.

Line of 12 girls. Script notes that Joe's emotions change rapidly without transitions -- hyper-nervous energy throughout. He talks to the girls, some in dumb-show. When he comes to Victoria, he asks if her card has her home phone number. He has a coughing fit. He sweeps the hair back on one girl and instructs her to do it that way from now on. "But, please, if you don't get the job, promise me you won't go home, kick the dog and beat up your children." Shots of audience shows producers, composers, stage manager, Audrey (ex-wife, star of NY/LA), daughter Michelle. Joe leaps into the aisle from the stage, massages his left hand.

HDR. Joe tries on a clown's nose, remarking that it's a real drinker's nose. His conversation with Angelique describes him as a drunk, user of speed, womanizer. "Sleep? Sleep? I don't even sleep with me."

Back at theatre. Joe picks female dancers, one of whom is Victoria. Others raise objections as, in the background, the stage manager disperses the males and gives instructions to the females. MIchelle notes Victoria is pretty. Backstage, two rejected dancers talk. "Honey, I did fuck him, and he never picks me either." Joe is supposed to have Michelle for the weekend, but he says he has to work. He exits, takes several Dexedrine pills. "Oh ... some kind of father." He dashes back in.

Audrey is defending Joe's choice of Victoria to the others. Joe and Audrey talk. They had a great marriage until he screwed it up. She expresses concerns about the youth of her role (he says she'll be great) and the script (he says he'll fix it). He turns to Michelle -- will have her picked up if she doesn't mind hanging around the cutting room.

HDR. Joe: "... oh, man, I cheated every chance I could get." Angelique plays analyst, and they do word association. Marriage - screwed up. Family - screwed up. Work - all there is. Woman - a flood of words.

Cutting room. On the Steenbeck, Joe is watching a monologue from his movie The Stand-Up, with Davis Newman. Also there is editor Eddie Lerner, assistant editor Jonathan, and apprentice Stacey. Joe manipulates the Steenbeck (replaying bits, etc.). Monlogue -- Death about dignity is bullshit. People have different feelings about depth. One theory is five stages (each of which Newman illustrates) - anger, denial, bargaining, depression, acceptance. Joe thinks acting's lousy, shot lousy, directed lousy, but Eddie says it's funny. Joe says to try another angle. Joe flirts with Stacey.

Projection room. Joe and others watch piece of the same monologue. Joe smokes and drinks. Katie Jagger enters, cool acknowledgment between her and Stacey. She takes Joe's hand and kisses his neck, laughs. She asks if they can have dinner, but he says they might be working late -- he'll call. Katie laughs again at the film, then slips out. Joe says the film's not good, rattles off a list of things they need to tighten up, massages his left hand. "Do you suppose Stanley Kubrick ever gets depressed?" No more editing tonight, he says he needs to work on his script for the show.

Joe's apartment. He lets Victoria in. Music plays: "It's a perfect way to end a perfect day."

HDR. Joe wears hat, applies Cyrano nose, instructs lighting designer on levels. He regrets affairs only when he gets caught.

Joe's apartment. Victoria wants to be a movie star, asks if it's possible. He wavers, but when pressed tells the truth. "It is a freaky business."

HDR. Angelique: "Truth .. the final ploy."

Victoria goes upstairs. Joe drops shirt as he follows. Katie comes in with dog, notices shirt, finds them together in bedroom. She's hurt, disappointed, and resigned. He says sorry, she leaves. Joe momentarily feels remorse, pours wine, looks at Victoria's naked body.

HDR. Joe, nude Angelique, oblivious mother, who says he never looked at girls when he was working in burlesque clubs.

Flashback: nightclub. Between shows, teenage Joe studies Latin. Stripper catches him, divines real age, tells other strippers. MC begins introducing Joe, interrupts himself to do jokes. Joe is dressed for tap-dancing (top hat, tails). Strippers sneak up on Joe, surround him, thrust breast into his face, tease, massage groin. He quotes from Bible (rod, staff). MC calls impatiently, fanfare. Shots of Joe (with stain on trousers), audience laughter. He dances and cries.

Morning waking routine, starting with extreme close-up of Joe's eye (Visine).

Dann (composer) demonstrates song for NY/LA. Producers enthusiastic, Joe less so.

Dance rehearsal. Joe hectors them. Joe gives instructions to Joan and Astrid -- three end up in comical sexual position.

HDR. Joe once tried menage a trois. Tangos with partners. One left a note -- can't share you anymore. Angelique -- how do you know it was for you? He tentatively reaches out to touch her face.

Abrupt cut -- Joe feels short of breath.

HDR -- Joe withdraws hand.

Reality. Joe regains breath.

Cutting room. Joe works on Steenbeck. Movie producer complains about triple time, budget overrun -- has to stop! Joe -- made changes in monologue, sit and watch. As he leaves, he kisses Stacy on the neck and feels her up. He'll be back after rehearsal -- another late night working. Penn (producer) -- my God, it is better.

Rehearsal room. Joe and Michelle with rhythm machine. Joe tries a few lifts, instructs her as they move. She asks why he doesn't get married again. "... because I can't find anyone I dislike enough to inflict that kind of torture on." He would settle down, stop screwing around, she thinks. "Michelle, I love you." "You say that to all the girls."

Morning waking routine.

Kate, Joe in bedroom. He gives her coffee.

Abrupt cut to HDR. He draws black lines of make-up on his face. Says he doesn't believe in love, though he says it a lot. Intercut with Katie telling him she's been asked to go on tour for 6 mo. She asks what he thinks, and he says that for her own good she should go. While he's out of the room, she calls Michael and makes a dinner date. Joe overhears and confronts her. He can do whatever he wants, but she can't. She has trouble saying what she thinks, so he jumps in. "Stop directing! You never stop directing!" She says he's egotistical, has double standards, is a hypocrite (he nods in agreement to each one).

Steenbeck. He manipulates footage of Katie's line: "I just wish you weren't so generous with your cock." He says, with difficulty, please don't go.

HDR. Joe wears gloves, practices gestures, freezesi n poses as spot hits him. Angelique: everything for you, nothing for her.

Rehearsal. Joe relentlessly criticizes Victoria. She finally breaks down. He takes her aside, comforts her. They start again. Joe mouths, "Better."

Insurance exam. Both Joe and the doctor are smoking. Joe is worth $1 million if he dies before Feb. 1. He has a coughing fit, but passes the exam anyway.

Cutting room. Footage of Kimberly running on Steenbeck, can hear Joe's directions. Joe drinks and leafs through the NY/LA script. He tells editor that he has more ideas for Newman's monologue.

Dann plays a song, Audrey rehearses. Joe bursts in. "I can't face those people." He's worried about a certain number. Did the show only so that Audrey could have a role. She's annoyed -- she can play a 24-year-old, and will prove it to him. She says that Joe is doing the show for no other reason than for guilt about unfaithfulness. They talk about his paramours, and he blanks out on the name of a certain blonde. This inspires him, and he rushes back out.

Morning routine, very short cuts.

Producers, composer go to rehearsal room. Joe tries to lower their expectations (it's not really ready yet). He retches in bathroom, parodies "Show time" gesture. Producers, composer, Audrey watch production number. At first they're pleased -- it seems like a traditional Broadway thing. Then things change abruptly -- the dancers disrobe and go through a series of mechanical couplings, ending with each one isolated, caressing him/herself. Nothing left but self-love. Song -- Take off with us. Welcome aboard Airotica. Tango, calypso. As the dance proceeds, the producers exchange horrified comments: "There goes the family audience." Dancers disperse. Joe: no real human contact. "We take you everywhere but get you nowhere." The producers, stunned, say it's interesting. Audrey says it's the best work Joe's every done: "You son of a bitch."

HDR. Joe: nothing he ever does is good enough. He looks at a rose, which is perfect. Question -- how did God do that, and why can't Joe?

Projection room, screening. Joe makes excuses. The film starts, and he goes off and throws up, then comes back and looks for audience reaction. Anxious because no one's saying anything, he bumps up the sound volume. His editor tries to reassure him. Finding the pressure unbearable, Joe leaves.

Joe on phone -- at least two people say the screening was a hit (producer, agent). After dinner, Michelle and Kate perform a musical number in tribute.

First script reading for NY/LA. No sounds except for exaggerated effects involving Joe (fingers tapping, etc.) Great positive response from all except Joe and Audrey. Joe massages his left arm.

Katie, Victoria spot each other -- insincere smiles and nods.

Joe and others at ER exam room. He has a serious case of angina that could lead to a coronary. (Outside, Audrey tells Michelle it's exhaustion, but isn't convincing.) Doctors tell him he must stay at least 2-3 weeks. Joe explodes, and promptly has a coronary. "I wasn't sick until I got here!"

Shots of Joe sedated on machines intercut with shots of Kate leaving message (must think before defining herself as girlfriend), producer saying show postponed (but will try to keep cast together). Audrey says Joe was joking about adding a hospital number.

Joe is moved to a private room.

Lucas Sergeant, another director, is setting lights for a seduction scene. Dann tells him about the situation, and Sergeant volunteers to help if he needs a hand. Dann will get him copy of script.

HDR. Joe tries on glasses. Looks for the worst in people (looks for himself). His attraction to Angelique deepens.

Kimberly (from film) calls, hysterical. Joe calms her down. Party atmosphere in his room. "I wish I could ahve gotten that performance out of her in the picture."

Joe, Katie watch O'Conner Flood. He mocks Flood's intro. "Boy, do I hate showbiz ... Boy, do I love showbiz. I'll go either way."

HDR. Joe inspects dancers' costumes. He got into showbiz to meet girls.

Hospital montage. Fades for transitions. Dann puts on Brahms for Joe (which plays through montage). Penn puts up life-size blow-up of Kimberly. Joe has visitors. Katie reads e.e. cummings poem to Joe. He reads same poem to another girl. Joe caught smoking in bathrom. Audrey and Dann perform, tell joke about egomaniac with inferiority complex. Joe flirts with nurse. Producers talk business -- main thing to get Joe back on his feet, show's secondary. Davis: "If you can't make it as a genius, then fuck it, why not die?"

X-ray. Joe reads poem to another girl. Another vsit from Davis -- says that Joe is hanging around in the hope that just once he'll create a work of real importance. Picture getting sensational response. Joe reads poem to yet another girl. Davis: Joe has a deep-rooted fear of being conventional, of being ordinary instead of special. Party in Joe's room, Joe dances to scattered protests.

Doctors lay down the law. Joe makes out with Stacy, caught by nurse. Montage ends.

Hospital staff meeting. Joe in denial of condition. All female nurses say he's been inappropriate. Visitors will be limited.

Joe walks corridor, reads positive reviews of film (Penn had left the bad ones at the office, and Joe doesn't want to see them). TV reviewer says Joe tried too hard to please. Joe wants to hear review to the end. Others vent. Joe rages, he has more heart trouble, emergency team rushes in and treats him.

Joe has angiogram.

HDR. Three doctors talking at once about the heart. Joe had total blockage in two arteries.

Hospital room. Joe's will is being read - $50,000 to Audrey, $15,000 to Katie, rest to Michelle. Other women appear in dream-like fashion. Not in will? Then fuck you.

Joe and Katie watch Flood. She tries to get him to laugh by parodying Flood's intro. Joe: "I'm afraid you learned too much from me." He'd called several times one night, getting no answer. He accuses her of having an affair, and she says yes. Abrupt cut to Steenbeck, with Joe saying he shot that two ways, let's see her "no". It plays -- that's not the way it happened, do it the other way. Is the relationship finished? Joe says he really loves her.

HDR. Angelique asks if he meant that, and he says no -- just wanted to say something nice. Angelique kisses him on the lips, but he pushes her back, saying she's coming on awful strong.

Shots of Joe's surgery intercut with meeting in insurance office. Three possibilities: Joe recovers and resumes work within 180 days, another director takes over within 180 days, Joe dies and show is cancelled. Only with the third does the $1 million policy take effect.

HDR. Angelique touches Joe's cheek.

Joe in post-surgery intensive care, nurse confirms he's alive. Hallucinatory Joe appears at his bed, says he has choreographed two numbers, choice between "The Old Self-Destructive Shuffle" or the "I'm Glad I'm Alive Stomp".

HDR. Joe tells Angelique to please go. She withdraws.

Joe picks "Glad I'm Alive" stomp. Celebration of Joe's life.

Dann and Sergeant have lunch. Dann says Joe is on the mend. Sergeant gives him several pages of detailed script notes.

Audrey is visiting Joe. He has a heart attack. Nurse Gibbons says it's impossible, she just gave him medication. Audrey demands help from an unhelpful nurse at the desk. A resident gives Joe morphine. Joe's panic grows. Nurse Gibbons gives Audrey her address for a check. Audrey slaps her.

HDR. Joe applies grotesque makeup. Angelique is back, and says she's staying.

Joe removes his IV, tapes, and wires, and moves down the corridor. His progress is intercut with shots of people looking for him. Joe sings, pleads with God. "What's the matter? Don't you like musical comedy?" Stops by dissection room and chides corpses, stops by old woman's room and kisses her. He hears a projectionist's voice and answers, "Yes, again! I'm not finished! I want to run the whole thing again!"

Joe in cafeteria, picks up a pie. He overhears a couple debating about car and sprinkler, and tells them to get both: "Don't postpone any-thing." The pie's stale, he complains to the clerk, who asks him to pay. He picks up pie and shoves it into her face. Steenbeck -- pie-push from three different angles. Attendants subdue Joe and take him away.

Cuts between intensive care, where Joe is being re-taped, etc. and HDR, where Angelique works on his makeup.

Flood -- intro for Joe (totally sardonic -- no friend of mine). Musical number, "Bye Bye Life," is Joe's final appearance. Shots of him, performers, audience, Death (resembling Angelique). Joe moves into audience, shakes hands, kisses, brief exchanges. Tells Michael to be good to Katie, Sergeant to give Dann a hit, hugs Michelle, tells Audrey he can't lie to her anymore. Standing ovation.

Angelique waits for Joe, he moves toward her. In screenplay, they embrace, kiss, move into deeper embrace. Angelique -- if you want to be with me, you can't be with anyone else. Joe: "I accept."

Joe is dead. Body bag is zipped, covering his face.

My notes
-- good use of closeups
-- great rehearsal scenes
-- moves fluidly between reality and fantasy -- use of abrupt cuts
-- very funny
-- flawed main character -- high on life
-- music, dancing perfectly integrated into story
-- simultaneous sound
-- scenes with Angelique provide exposition, commentary, atmosphere

FT 540 notes (from 06/19/03)
-- black comedy
-- 137 cuts in "Bye Bye Life," incredibly complex

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