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Sunday, June 8, 2008

ZOU ZOU (1934)

Elaborate Josephine Baker dramatic musical is a triumph . . . for Jean Gabin. At the start of his career, this squat, big-featured lug already displays most of his star qualities; he even sings with swaggering confidence. Pic’s a big backstage story with Baker’s Creole laundress taking over for the temperamental star, having a great success, but losing Gabin to a blonde after rescuing him from a murder charge. And by the way, the blonde’s her best friend & Jean’s her adoptive sibling. (Don’t ask.) Squint and you can just see what made Baker such a phenom. But she’s more of a scenic-point-of-interest than an actress, a vivacious vamp who mugs for every shot, sings with a nasal tremolo (quite a big range though) & dances after her own fashion. A film natural, she ain’t. Megger Marc Allegret’s attempted Busby Berkeley numbers are hopelessly ill-staged, composed, routined and edited, but there’s undeniable period flavor here.

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