ALL THAT JAZZ (1979)

Bob Fosse’s ALL THAT JAZZ is a wonderful film on so many levels. The film was a semi-autobiographical interpretation of Fosse’s own life. And hits rather close to home as Ann Reinking even portrays a version of herself and her relationship with Fosse.

This clip comes out of the seminar AMPING IT UP: Sound Design in Cinema. Marge and I co-produce the American Cinematheque’s Seminar Series for Producer/Consultant Thomas Ethan Harris and it was his take on this scene that really opened my eyes to the full potential in the use of sound.

In this scene sound effects create Joe Gideon’s interior dialogue, his interior POV. It moves us into his psychology at that moment and even moves the story forward, all through the use of sound. There is no underlying musical score, just the sound effects. Powerful.

As you watch the clip below, try to identify all of the sound effects that give us deep insight into Joe’s mental state.

Did you find them all? They are:

Finger Tapping

Footsteps on Wooden Floor

Finger tips grinding on metal pipe

Putting cigarette out

Grabbing another cigarette and tapping it on desk and then lighting it

Uneasy breathing

Watch ticking

Dropping lit cigarette and grinding it out

Breaking the pencil and dropping it

Stretches of Silence. Yes, stretches of SILENCE. Silence or the absence thereof is actually a sound element. SOUND has the capability to move us inside a character.

Other things to look for in this scene, is in the reverse angles, the characters POV. The Sync Sound has been removed and images are in slow motion giving us a new internal image. Joe is uncomfortable and so are we. These are odd and strange elements and they throw us off.  Most Sound Effects are used to evoke an emotion from us in this scene the Sound Effects are used and exaggerated to approximate Joe’s psychological state.

In addition, the Sound Effects help in interpreting the compression of time. That short scene is about three minutes and 15 seconds, but they read the whole play in that time which would have been in reality several hours. In Joe’s mind it’s excruciating and that’s all we need to see.

ALL THAT JAZZ won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival and won four Academy Awards, nominated for seven, but unfortunately was never nominated for sound. A tragic mistake, in my opinion.

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