4/25/17

"THE WIZ": A LITTLE DOC ABOUT A BIG MOVIE



Above is a 'featurette' made for God knows what reason about the making of the 1977 movie version of the musical 'The Wiz'. Directed by Sidney Lumet, the film was an enormous and enormously expensive undertaking--the most expensive movie ever made in New York at that time (according to this mini-doc)--and was an enormous failure, both critically and commercially, ending the cycle of 'blaxploitation' films that had begun earlier in the 1970s and dooming the Hollywood musical for quite a long time.

Lumet is interviewed as is Rob Cohen, the producer. That it took two New York Jews to end the resurgence of black cinema is a fact one can't comfortably look away from (or comfortably look at, for that matter). Lumet blathers platitudes about how fabulous Diana Ross is, how 'truthful' young Michael Jackson is ("you have to work very honestly around him...' etc.). He also performs a very interesting dance step at 4: 40--did he choreograph as well? I remember the movie coming on the Z Channel (L.A.'s first all-movie cable channel) shortly after the debacle of its 1977 release and turning it off less than halfway through. From the looks of the above doc it appears rather flat though imaginatively conceived. I'm not sure Lumet was the guy for this job, being a little realistic (as well as just being little--five and half feet, supposedly). Would Bob Fosse have delivered a stronger movie? How about a black director? Were their any? Gordon Parks? Melvin Van Peebles? Perhaps an adventurous co-directing team-- a choreographer and a cinematographer working together to deliver the bang/zoom that the movie seems to lack. I like Vilmos Zsigmond and Twyla Tharp for this version.

At the end of the roughly twelve minute doc, their appears to be B-Roll that somebody spliced on, consisting of silent footage of the Motown offices. What was it for? Why is it there to begin with? A somewhat ghostly way to end this look at the movie that temporarily ended the Hollywood musical. "Annie" was only four years away from nailing the coffin shut for another decade and a half.

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