Zouzou [DVD] [1934]

Marc Allégret's Zouzou (1934), starring Josephine Baker and Jean Gabin, arrives on DVD in a good authorized edition. The film has been crisply transferred in full-screen (1.33-to-1) within the limits of the surviving materials, which aren't perfect, but are in better shape than the old VHS editions led one to believe. To be sure, there are blemishes in the film stock, such as very thin black vertical lines in some shots, black scratches, and other flaws in the exterior scenes (beginning around 13:03); occasional missing frames and frozen frames replacing absent footage; and changes in contrast and density that have been compensated for on the transfer. There are other periodic rough spots, such as some worn splices at six and a half minutes in; and the sound in the early reels is a little uneven in volume. But Zouzou is, overall, presented about as well as we're likely ever to see it, with sharp focus and full audio where they absolutely have to be: on the performance numbers. The subtitles are white with a very thin black border around the letters for extra readability, and can be switched off for those who understand French or simply need to see the movie unimpeded. The chaptering is fairly generous, a dozen markers set aside for the 93-minute feature. As to the movie itself, it's of considerably more than academic or historical interest -- it works as a movie as well as a vehicle for Baker, with Gabin also playing a choice role for all it is worth. Fans of Hollywood musicals will not be disappointed by anything they find here, and this is also a chance to see a piece of unique French musical entertainment before the country and its social order fell to Nazi aggression at the start of the following decade. Accompanying the movie is the 2005 vintage featurette "Josephine Baker: The Woman," a 13-minute documentary dealing with her legacy, featuring interviews with actress Lynn Whitfield, critic Margo Jefferson, historian Elizabeth Kendall, and Baker's adopted son and biographer, Jean-Claude Baker -- the intercutting of film clips and talk is careful, clever, and enlightening, concerning her career and its ups and downs, and her tumultuous personal life. We're also treated to a five minute tour of Chez Josephine, a nightspot and shrine to the performer in New York City established by her son. And we get the three major musical numbers from the movie excerpted, so that they can be viewed in sequence, plus a stills gallery. The disc opens automatically on startup to a multi-layered menu that is very easy to use and maneuver.
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Overview

Special Features

  • "Josephine Baker: The Woman" (2005) includes interviews with Lynn Whitfield (actress, The Josephine Baker Story), Margo Jefferson (New York Times theatre critic), Elizabeth Kendall (dance critic and historian) and Jean-Claude Baker, Josephine Baker's adopted son and biographer
  • Video tour of Chez Josephine - Jean-Claude Baker's culinary exhibition of rare Josephine Baker paintings and posters
  • Song selections
  • Stills gallery
  • Optional English subtitles

Synopsis

Zou Zou
Zou Zou is one of a handful of French musical films made by the flamboyant African-American entertainer Josephine Baker. The star plays a Creole laundress who becomes an overnight stage success when she subs for a tempestuous diva. She goes on to experience the requisite professional highs and personal lows, and to briefly enjoy the attentions of French matinée idol Jean (Jean Gabin). La Baker's costumes reveal virtually everything but what she's eaten for breakfast, and her dancing is just a step away from obscenely erotic. In short, the film represents Josephine Baker at her outrageous best, making this film a must for fans and casual admirers alike. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Cast & Crew

  • Josephine Baker
    Josephine Baker - Zouzou
  • Image coming soon
    Yvette Lebon - Claire
  • Image coming soon
    Illa Meery - Miss Barbara
  • Jean Gabin
    Jean Gabin - Jean
  • Pierre Larquey
    Pierre Larquey - Father Mele
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