Zou Zou

Overview

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 ...
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Overview

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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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
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Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Bruce Eder
It's 1934, and in America the movie industry is about to get all head up about morality and decency on screen, and -- fearing separate legal and censorship entanglements in each of 48 states -- the studios were about to weave themselves a straightjacket called the Production Code, banning most overt expressions of sexuality or even a hint of unpunished immorality. Meanwhile, in France, they were making movies like Zou Zou, which took an American-style backstage musical framework and threw into it the sexiest black American performer of her day, Josephine Baker -- who wasn't allowed anywhere near an American movie studio. Thrust happily into musical numbers so erotically revealing that they left nothing to the imagination, Baker, co-star Jean Gabin, and director Marc Allégret (whose eye for female screen talent included nurturing the early careers of Simone Simon and Brigitte Bardot) created one of a tiny handful of must-see 1930s musicals generated outside of the United States. Except that this one, with its provocative production numbers and interracial romance, is also a kind of very nonchalant poke-in-the-eye of America and its popular culture and prejudices. On that basis alone -- even overlooking the dramatic content, the performances, and the musical numbers -- Zouzou is essential viewing for fans of the star, the genre, or the era, not to mention anyone with more than an ounce of curiosity about pop culture history.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 6/21/2005
  • UPC: 738329040024
  • Original Release: 1934
  • Rating:

  • Source: Kino Video
  • Presentation: B&W
  • Language: Français
  • Time: 1:33:00
  • Format: DVD
  • Sales rank: 58,042

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Josephine Baker Zouzou
Yvette Lebon Claire
Jean Gabin Jean
Illa Meery Miss Barbara
Pierre Larquey Father Mele
Madeleine Guitty
Technical Credits
Marc Allégret Director
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Scene Index

Side #1 --
1. Cirque Romarin [7:15]
2. Achieving a Dream [7:36]
3. Abandoning Ship [8:00]
4. Widow Vallie's Laundry [7:26]
5. Chez Oscar [8:07]
6. Bad Barbara [5:28]
7. Love Triangle [8:16]
8. Papa Mile Passes [7:28]
9. Everyone Wants Jean [7:24]
10. Zou Zou's Success [9:30]
11. Saving Jean [6:23]
12. Imprisoned Heart [8:34]
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Menu

Side #1 --
   Play
   Scenes
   Extras
      Josephine Baker: The Woman 2005, 13 Min.
      A Tour of Chez Josephine 2005, 5 Min.
      The Music
         "C'est Lui" That's Him
            Play
         "Haiti"
            Play
         "Fifine"
            Play
      Stills Gallery
      Subtitle Options
         On
         Off
   Credits
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