"That is how White aborigines culture became fashionable in Africa"
I enjoy science-fiction just as much as the next man but what the hell was that? Apparently shot over just three days using excess film stock left over from his previous film, 'Nana (1926),' this Jean Renoir short is a bewildering futuristic satire, produced on a budget that couldn't have been much more than zero. In the year 2028, following a great war, Africa has become the most civilised region on Earth, and what was formerly Europe has been designated "Terres Inconnues (Unknown Land)." An African explorer played by Johnny Huggins, a Black man dressed up as a White man dressed up as a Black man, if you follow me travels to the ruins of Paris in his spherical aircraft, and lands outside the lair of a Parisian savage (Catherine Hessling, then the director's wife) and her primate companion, perhaps the creepiest ape-man costume I've ever seen. The savage, as part of some bizarre sexual initiation ritual, starts showing the explorer the Charleston dance, which he is delighted to learn himself.
It doesn't help the film that Hessling, who was wonderful the following year in Renoir's 'The Little Match Girl (1928),' isn't much of a dancer, though the extensive use of slow-motion adds a touch of surrealism to the ceremony. Furthermore, I'm quite shocked that Renoir would exploit his own wife as such a blatant sexual object it doesn't come as a surprise to learn of their divorce just three years later! On the plus side, I did like the general sci-fi concept behind the film, and the slyly satiric touch of the reversing the racial roles usually typical in such stories as this. However, why Renoir decided to dress up his Black actor as a minstrel will remain a mystery for all of time. Silly, crude and quite pointless, 'Charleston Parade (1927)' is a cinematic oddity from one of cinema's most respected directors, and is perhaps an effort that he would have liked to forget. The DVD version came without a musical soundtrack, but I compromised with a selection of pieces from Dmitri Shostakovich.
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