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|Index||20 reviews in total|
First off, Luis Valdez is a genius, he managed to take a real life
story, and make it into a musical, not only was its the best kind of
musical, with great acting and symbolism, but with meaning to the
This film is about Chicanos and their history during the 1940's, and even though it's about the gang, the actual Zoot Suit and the ending are all very symbolic, and this movie should be credited for all the creativity and work put into this brilliant masterpiece.
The songs were good, but what I really enjoyed was the acting, James Omos is talent behind measurement, yet he receives no credit for such a role. He doesn't play the role, he is the Zoot Suit. All around the acting from everyone was excellent, I wouldn't change a thing about the film.
This is one of the best statements, made musically, about anti-Mexican-American prejudice ever made. It is set in Los Angeles, during World War 2, when young 'chicanos' or 'pachucos' used the unique style of the zoot suit to set themselves off, and establish a florid machismo. Some of the plot is based on an actual incident. The movie is made as if showing a staged 'play,' in front of an 'audience,' in order to make particular statements about the way things appear to be. Edward James Olmos is the spirit of Pachuco, haunting Henry Reyna, the central character. We are brought to feel intensely both the striving for self-expression of the chicano youth, and the intense prejudice (based, as always, on ignorance) of the larger anglo society against them. Those of us who are anglos also come to identify with the anglos in the story who genuinely care for them and for justice. Four stars, especially for anyone from the southwest who is not a bigot.
What a strange and surreal experience this film presents. While this is supposed to be a movie, it comes off as more of a high budget play, complete with random crowd scenes and odd looking stage sets. While most films try to present the real, this film encompasses the opposite side of the spectrum, presenting a world that is completely reconstructed within a small plot of space. Entertaining and unusual, this is one of those films a person should watch for the pure visual appeal of film.
Having seen the original stage production at the Mark Taper Forum &
Theatres, in Los Angeles. I was quite blown away by both the production
performances. This was one of my all time favorite stage
An attempt to mount the play in New York was a disappointing failure. I guess the "snobs" of the New York Theatre world, at that time weren't appreciative of something they just didn't get.
When I hear about the film being in production, I awaited it's release with anticipation. It's impossible to replace the presence of live performance with film. This filmed version was a truly impressive attempt to relay the success of the "live" production. I have long had my own copy of this film on Laser Disc and wish it was on DVD.
If you haven't seen the film and are ready for something different with some cultural insight, rent it on VHS, the only format currently available.
Zoot Suit takes a highly stylised approach to racism in the 40s, in
particular the infamous 1942 Sleepy Lagoon murder trial that saw a
group of Zoot Suited 'Chicanos' railroaded for a murder in one of the
most outrageously unfair trials in American history. But rather than go
for a grim courtroom drama, Luis Valdez' film uses it as the basis for
a musical fantasy about racism and machismo dominated by Edward James
Olmos' El Pachuco, a fantasy figure acting as both Greek Chorus and
instigator, with attitude and bad advice to spare. The director's
brother Daniel Valdez does double-duty as self-destructive leading man
and composer of many the songs, and does a good job of both (sadly the
soundtrack only made it to LP). There are some liberties with the truth
names have been changed and the 22 accused are whittled down to a
fictionalised four for dramatic convenience although the most surreal
and unbelievable aspects of the trial are sadly accurate: the
defendants weren't allowed clean clothes or haircuts to ensure that
they looked more 'criminal,' had to stand whenever their name was
mentioned and the prosecution really did produce a witness from the LA
Sheriff's Office who gave testimony that Mexicans were predisposed to
commit murder because of their 'Aztec heritage' of human sacrifice.
There's no attempt to hide that this is unashamedly a filmed play and there are problems with the approach: the sporadic cutaways to the theatre audience are more distraction than anything else and by filming on the original theatre sets the film occasionally hits problems with the cinematography the vivid colours are excellent, but the tendency to lose focus on anyone not standing centre-stage (something that happens to Charles Aidman in particular) is irritatingly sloppy. Also, it has to be said, Olmos' performance makes no concessions to the more intimate nature of film and at times comes across as stilted and too mannered for the big screen. Yet despite the niggles, it works more often than not. Not for all tastes, certainly, but this 'Chicano Chicago' certainly deserves to be better known.
This film is a work of art. Of the finest quality. I first saw it at the Sunset Theater in downtown Los Angeles over 20 years ago. I was impressed with it then. Now that I have my own copy, I continue to be impressed by the quality of the performances, the screen writing, the sets, the music and dancing, and the feeling. I gave it a "10" which puts me in the same category as the "under 18 age females", OK, I guess I don't mind being in a group with some under 18 age females, sounds pretty good, eh, ese? Kudos for Luis Valdez, Daniel Valdez, Edward James Olmos, Tyne Daly and muchos otros. Great work, can't say enough good things about it.
While I am willing to agree with the one reviewer here who takes Luis
to task for staging a somewhat lopsided revision of history, I'm
surprised at the 6.4 rating for this very artfully laid out rundown of
the Sleepy Lagoon screwiness in wartime LA. My father was in fact one
of the sheriff's deputies involved. His version was understandably
authoritarian and legalistic. But all that aside...
This is the best examination I've ever seen or even heard of regarding the psyche of the Mexican-American gang bangers on the east side of that dry wash that separated the fix-is-in boys downtown from the second- and third-generation campesinos of mid-century SoCal. I went to Woodrow Wilson Junior & High School in El Sereno. There is nothing in Eddie James's =stunning= (to me, anyway) real-ization of "El Pachuco" that is off the mark. Nada. He had the peculiar, paranoid-delusional, narcissistic-machismo, defense mechanism menudo of the vato loco =down=, ese.
And anyone who understands even a =little= of what it really means to be =Hispanically= antisocial in hyper-starched khakis & Sir Guys =or= peg pants & porkpies -- and =dig= it -- ought to be fascinated. (Go see the outfits some of the guys in El Chicano, Tierra and Thee Midnighters are sporting to this day.)
Lalo Guerrero's "Marijuana Boogie" and the rest of the "bop" lend further flavor to this nifty little play-turned-film. Watch it =carefully=. Valdez's script is subtle. This is sophisticated trabajo.
this movie was a great look at Chicano culture in the 40's.. i feel that it relevant now as well... i think it's more moving if you are Chicano and have grown up in that culture...it might be hard to feel towards the characters if you have not experienced the type of racism that Chicanos go through..i myself have and maybe i am biased and see this movie very inspirational...but what can i do about it, i'm brown. i recommend this movie even if your are not Latino.. you can see what people of other races went through...experiences that were not put in the history books by white America...see what was done to Chicanos of that time.
I also saw the original stage production in LA in 1978/79. I was likely
the only Anglo in the audience, which was itself an experience worth
buying a ticket to. I would have gone back several times if I had had
Olmos was featured in the local TV commercials for the play and was riveting to watch. That commercial could be re-released as a short. In the theater, you could NOT take your eyes off him.
I have seen the film several times and own a DVD copy. While there are some cringe-worthy moments and some obvious "staginess", the film does credit to the original vision and is worth watching.
One should never watch a work of art in an attempt to learn about history, or science, or anything else. Art is art.
Musicals made into movies are usually boring but this movie is very interesting and artistic flare. When this movie came out in the early 80's there was a buzz generated and I begin to see the language introduce back into mainstream. I watched the movie recently and every detail of the movie was made with quality and attention. The historical roots, the culture, the dual persona of the Chicano experience. Edward James Olmos gave a great performance and really captures the essence of the character. He could have portrayed any American subculture with his acting skills I believe, and the fact he is still a viable actor. He seems to be really memorable in his parts as a Mexican-American patriarch-Mr. Escalente in Stand and Deliver, Selena's dad in Selena, Mr. Vega in George Lopez, Montoya in American Me, etc. I highly recommend this movie and Mr. Olmos performance especially.
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