Sheila O’Malley is still one of the most powerful writers around:
And so when Liza Minnelli sings “Life is a cabaret, old chum,” there is a crazy hope behind those glittering scary eyes. The world is about to end. Everything is about to fall apart. Bowles has been in bed with the wrong people. The waking-up-screaming is coming, but until that day? She plants her legs wide apart on that empty stage, and wails out her life force, defiantly declaring her belief that the party was worth it. In a strange way, Minnelli’s version can be seen as a triumph. At least from Bowles’ perspective. That’s why it’s such a good performance. It’s complicated. There are no easy answers. Bowles launches herself, willfully, above the horror in that moment, and insists—she insists, all evidence to the contrary, that life IS a cabaret. She will not have it any other way. But when you think about the wider picture of what is happening in Europe at that time, that mindset becomes disgusting, soulless.