La Revue Des Revues (1927)
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St. Louis-born and Harlem-raised Paris music hall superstar Josephine Baker (Zou Zou, Princess Tam Tam), the highest paid entertainer of her day, is only one of the legends in this vintage 1927 collection of sexy and tres risque Le Jazz Hot performances from the notorious nightclubs of Montmarte. Serge Bromberg and Lobster Films spent ten years combing film archives worldwide, with the biggest assist coming from a print located at the Danish Film Institute, to reassemble La Revue Des Revues (whose lavish production numbers are color tinted using an elaborate stencil process) into a cinematic time machine recreating Jazz Age France in all its extravagance and sensuality. Gabrielle (Helene Hallier), an ambitious but innocent would-be young chorine, trumps a music hall publicity stunt to become the new Parisian nightclub Cinderella. But this lighter-than-champagne-bubbles story is only a pretext for La Revue Des Revues's white-hot, non-stop procession of outrageously and scantily attired exotic dancers, showgirls, and acrobats including the Tiller's Follies Girls, Ruth Zackey and the Hoffmann Girls, and danseuse russe Lila Nikolska. But it's Josephine Baker, "the high priestess of primitivism" (J. Hoverman - Village Voice), who triumphs in two show stopping numbers in which "her clownish backfield-in-motion Charleston shimmy is unlike anything else in the movie and perhaps unlike anything anyone ever did."
While it may not qualify as a masterpiece of silent cinema, La Revue des Revues offers a priceless time-capsule smorgasbord of Parisian nightlife circa 1927. The "Jazz Age" was in full swing (so to speak), and this glorious showcase of extravagant entertainment is highlighted by two performances by Josephine Baker, at that time the highest-paid entertainer in Europe. With her "backfield in motion" and her slinky physique working overtime, Baker is the most prominent performer in a veritable cavalcade of lavish dance and spectacle, played out on the grand stages of such Montmarte hot-spots as the Palace Theater, Folies-Bergère, and the legendary Moulin Rouge. The parade of performance revolves around the charming (if lightweight) story of Gabrielle (Helene Hallier), a down-and-out chorus girl who dreams of dance-hall stardom by entering a contest to find the new Cinderella of Parisian nightclubs. The plot is strictly disposable, but for anyone interested in artifacts of the Jazz Age, La Revue des Revues is a breathtaking feast of costumes, dance numbers, and dazzling stage designs, presented in over a dozen routines as lavish as they are (in retrospect) garishly amusing. Baker is certainly the headliner here, but other performers make up a roster of Parisian stars of 1927, including Russian dancer Lila Nikolska, the Tiller's Follies girls, and the illustrious Madame Komakova. There's a bit of peek-a-boo nudity, but otherwise this is good, clean fun. Special credit to film restoration experts Eric Lange, Serge Bromberg, and Lobster Films for combing through global film archives to create this beautifully tinted restoration, which owes its existence to a well-preserved print found at the Danish Film Institute. And while silent-film purists may prefer an authentic, vintage score, the all-new original music (by the French contemporary jazz ensemble Taranta-Babu!) certainly gives this film an interesting aesthetic spin. The rest of La Revue des Revues is purely rooted in its own era, and that makes it a fitting DVD companion to The Josephine Baker Collection. --Jeff Shannon
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Top customer reviews
The plot definitely follows Gaby Deslys' life, with a few exceptions. The lead actress bears a physical resemblance to Gaby and her character even changes her name to "Gaby Derys." She was well-known for her pearl jewelry, as well, but much larger pearls and longer strands than what is shown in the movie! Gaby Deslys died at the height of her fame, at age 37 in 1920. Unfortunately, she is all but lost to history. In addition to performing on stages in Europe, England and across America, she made four silent movies, but those are lost as well. Fortunately, "La Revue des Revues" has surfaced, and gives us a small glimpse into her life and her influence. Another character based on her can be seen today, in the BBC TV show "Selfridge," in the character "Ellen Love." Also, notable, Carole Lombard is costumed as Gaby Deslys (to a "T") for a costume party, in the movie "Love Before Breakfast."
Being a dancer, interested in early 20th century dance, I find the production numbers a great reference to have, especially since the quality is amazing and I love the hand-tinting. So, don't bank on this for being a riveting movie (unless you do like to collect interesting silent movies), but if you are interested in seeing early production numbers and costumes, it's a must for your library. And please take a look, a bit more closely, at the plot, for it's importance in the history of "the revue," and also for the reason that it is here---it is a very important part of a movie about the revues of Paris. I purchased a biography about Gaby Deslys on Amazon last year, and it was fascinating, if anyone is interested!
The worst part of this movie by far and why I rated it four stars instead of five was the absolutely dreadful choice of background music! I put the movie on mute after the first five minutes of whatever the hell that was and put Edith Piaf on instead. I have to admit that was a much better soundtrack. I'll admit I didn't listen to any more of the "music" after the first five minutes, or so and maybe it got better, but I really doubted it. The only reason I didn't listen to Josephine's own music is because that cd was in the car and I didn't want to get my lazy butt up and get it, but Edith was a better choice. Really, would it have killed these people to at least come close to the time period. That modern jazz crap really sucked.
So, if Josephine wasn't in it, it wouldn't be that great, but it gives you a nice glimpse into silent movies and how far cinema has come.
The remaining dancers have do some wonderful moments, along with some grand costumes. The same problem that plagues any vintage dance footage is unfortunately present here; grainy film, odd color shifts and frustrating camera work. That said, this isn't meant to be the ABT or Ballet Russe. ABTgood but required a fair bit of patience.
I absolutely agree with the other reviewers; mute the sound!
Most recent customer reviews
I love this film! It is unique in cinema history. Is there another film that shows what stage reviews at the Moulon Rouge and other Parisian nightclubs actually looked...Read more
The nominal story really just strings together a bunch of cabaret dance routines.Read more