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Film Reviews | Regular Feature the lyrics. Incorporating unique vistas, scene changes that are possible only on film, or innovations in technology calls attention to the "film" itself, allowing audience members to recognize that "it is there." Following in the footsteps of generations of film musicals, Chicago highlights its construction in many ways; most significantly , in it use of editing to integrate stage performances with other events. While the resulting shifts of space and perspective are similar to its predecessors, Chicago is unique in its choice of technique for accomplishing these effects. Chicago tells its story by cutting back and forth between musical performances set on a stage, or in a stage-like setting, and events in realistic locations. The film establishes this narrative format with its early numbers. Velma Kelly (Catherine Zeta Jones) performs "AU that Jazz" as part of a show in a club. Roxie, who wishes to have her own act, watches the show and identifies so strongly with Velma's performance that she envisions herself on stage. The audience shares Roxie's vision—seeing her temporarily take Velma's place. This switch links Roxie's actions withVelma's and establishes Roxie's fantasies as a part of the visual world of the movie. As the song progresses, the film cuts back and forth between Velma's stage performance and Roxie's affair, ending when Roxie learns of her lover's lies and shoots him. As her victim falls to the floor, Roxie turns and looks in the minor. Rather than seeing her own reflection , she sees the final pose of Velma's performance—a visual that emphasizes further the similarities between the two women. In "All That Jazz" the musical act advances the narrative in a direct manner; the stage show conesponds with the energy and action ofthe interjected scenes. At other times, the performances provide ironic observations about events in the realistic scenes— as when Billy Flynn (Richard Gere) sings that he does not care for "expensive suits" and the film cuts to him getting a fancy new outfit fitted at the tailor. The most elaborate use of this style of commentary occurs in the trial scene. For this sequence the courtroom where Roxie's trial is set becomes a "three-ring circus," featuring dancing showgirls, clowns, and Billy Flynn as a ringmaster in a sparkling suit. The story of the trial unfolds within both the circus-themed courtroom and the regular courtroom. At times the boundaries between the two blur. When Amos takes the stand, a showgirl in a sparkling costume wraps her arms around him as Billy asks questions. This image highlights Billy's persuasive ability to convince Amos that the trial performance is a realistic depiction of events. Amos believes the "circus," because he does not recognize it as a circus. While Roxie knows that the trial is "show business" and that a good performance will set her free, Amos sees the performance as reality and believes Roxie's reformation and rekindled devotion are genuine. The events of the trial reveal how the lyrics of "Mister Cellophane " apply to Amos's mode of viewing; he accepts the deceptive performances of Billy and Roxie as reality. His isolation within the film illuminates the emptiness of show business and the harmful effects ofbeing "razzle-dazzled." The audience, however , should not be fooled into thinking of the circus as reality, since they have seen the performance develop throughout the movie. Letting the audience members in on the deception, allows them to connect with Roxie and Billy. However, Amos becomes a means for the audience to question that identification. One of the most poignant moments in the film is when Roxie dismisses her devoted husband after that trial, intent on regaining the attention of the fickle media, who have moved on to cover another murder. Ultimately, Billy and Roxie teach their viewers to understand life's events as an entertaining show, while Amos reveals the dangers of embracing that perspective. Both the presentational technique and the narrative events in Chicago provide a means for the audience to accept and challenge the fantasy world of the film—a contradiction that defines the film musical genre. Cara Ann Lane...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1548-9922
Print ISSN
0360-3695
Pages
pp. 75-77
Launched on MUSE
2013-01-02
Open Access
No
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