Cabaret was an important part of our history, and there are many movies with this theme. You probably saw a couple of them throughout your life, and there is a high chance that you enjoyed them. But why is this the case? Why do people enjoy musicals and cabarets? Is “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” a cabaret movie? There are so many questions. Here, we will try to answer all of them for you (except the Roger Rabbit one).
When Life Imitates Art
This art form is quite old. It first appeared in France during the fifteenth century. Over the years, a lot of things changed, but the idea remained the same. It was all about entertainment, music, acting, and glamour.
In the U.S., cabaret incorporated elements of burlesque, drag, and striptease to create something new and unique. And as we all know, life often imitates art, and many wanted to be a part of this luxurious and fun lifestyle. Cabaret rose to power in the nineteenth century, and jazz influenced it heavily later on. Several clubs in New York City featured incredible singers like Nina Simone and Peggy Lee, unlike others that focused on instrumental music only.
What started as a show became so much more. Until the mid-20th century, cabaret was going strong. However, rock concerts, TV shows, and modern culture soon took over, and cabaret became almost a thing of the past.
The Cabaret-Themed Movies
But having a TV didn’t mean that people forgot all about other forms of entertainment, and cabaret still found a way to people’s hearts. There are many movies about it, for example, and some are quite popular and enjoyable.
One of the first movies that come to everyone’s mind is “Chicago.” The history of “Chicago” is interesting, and there have been many versions in the past. In short, it is a play written by Maurine Dallas Watkins that was made into a movie in 1927.
It is based on real events and follows the story of Roxy Hart and the murder of her boyfriend. In 1975, “Chicago” made it to Broadway, and it became the longest-running musical revival in history. Finally, the movie from 2002 of the same name is based on the musical, and it features Renée Zellweger, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Richard Gere.
Similarly, there have been several versions of character Jane Avril you might know from the movie “Moulin Rouge.” The first one came out in 1952, and it was remade in 2001, starring Nicole Kidman in the main role! You also might remember one of the biggest hits of 2001, “Lady Marmalade,” with Christina Aguilera, Lil’ Kim, Pink, and Mýa.
Finally, we should mention the movie “Cabaret,” which is set in the Weimar Republic during the thirties. The movie follows Sally Bowles and her performance in the Kit Kat Klub. As she falls in love with two men, their lives become entwined as the Nazi Party starts gaining power. The movie was loosely based on the Broadway musical of the same name, based on Christopher Isherwood’s novel “The Berlin Stories.”
Do These Movies Give Justice to Cabaret Culture?
Each movie is almost a product of their time and era. Naturally, remakes of popular movies like “Moulin Rouge” or “Cabaret” would be a bit further from the truth since cabaret is not that common today.
But what every original movie does good is showcase the then-popular trends quite well. For example, the first “Moulin Rouge” film from 1928 perfectly captures the spirit of the era. As you can probably guess, there are no modern songs in the film, and each character embodies the whole prohibition era. As time goes on, directors and actors stray further from the truth, and they need to modernize the movie to make it entertaining for modern audiences.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that remakes are bad. They just don’t offer the same accuracy and spirit that older movies have. If you are fond of old-school films, watching the original versions from the twenties and thirties will allow you to glimpse into the past and see people who, in fact, lived in that era. There are no costumes — they just used the same clothes as people who performed in cabarets. Not saying it is good or bad, but it just adds to authenticity that modern flicks will often lack.
The best thing about modern versions is that they keep the primary idea behind the story and just adapt it to let the modern audience enjoy watching it. So, if you are looking for something that’s reliable and based on the original material, you should go for the vintage version. But if you want to have fun and enjoy movies with more flair, theatrics, and drama, the modern version is the way to go.
A Life of Song and Dance
People say that “He who sings frightens away his ills,” and we have been drawn to music since the dawn of time. It makes us feel good. And the life of song and dance seems exciting and adventurous. That is probably one of the main reasons why audiences enjoy musicals and why they always get tons of academy awards.
Music is an important part of our lives. It can be emotional like no other form of entertainment. Just imagine being in a world of song. It sounds great (unless we’re talking about black metal). It is a form of escapism. People can leave their problems aside and enjoy themselves, even if it is for a couple of hours.
And this is why cabaret remains present even though the movement nearly disappeared half a decade ago. There are still many movies that incorporate elements from it like “Burlesque” with Cher and Christina Aguilera. It gives us a chance to dream. To imagine something different. To see ourselves in a different time and age filled with joy and song.