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 TillerÂ¹s Follies Girls, Ruth Zackey and the Hoffmann Girls, and danseuse russe Lila Nikolska. But it's Josephine Baker, "the high priestess of primitivism" (J. Hoberman 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." Written by
A lovely film with an atrocious modern musical score.
Wow, does this film have a horrible musical track on the DVD. Now you can't blame the original film makers--it was up to individual movie houses to provide whatever score they wanted with most silent films. Because of this, when silents are placed on DVD or shown on channels like Turner Classic Movies, they have modern composers create scores so the films aren't totally silent. Unfortunately, in the case of "La Revue des Revues" it has perhaps the most annoying and cacophonous accompaniments I have ever heard. It's like plunging knives into your ears to listen to it, so I was forced to turn off the sound part of he way into the movie. Why is it so bad? Well, part of it is because of the excessive use of electronic music--which just doesn't fit a film made in the 1920s. Another is because much of it sounds like free-form jazz sped up to twice normal speed! Yikes!
As far as the original film goes, it's quite striking to see such an early film with so much color. While the Pathé Color process was not true color, it was impressive for the time--and, in some ways, more pleasing to the eye than its competitor at the time, the Two-Color Technicolor process. Pathé Color relied on a small army of women with stencils to actually paint in the colors onto the print using rollers--a very, very time-consuming process to say the least. The biggest benefit was the color palette--you could use any color you liked. While the Two-Color Technicolor was a lot easier to use and cheaper and could be used to color the entire film (whereas the other process was usually just used in bits and pieces), it did tend to make films looks too strong of orange and green. It also usually lacked realism unless used selectively (such as in "The Phantom of the Opera"). Of the two, I still prefer the look of Two-Color if used well!
As far as the story goes, Gabrielle's story is actually just a thin way to try to connect live footage made of various acts of the time from the French stage--such as Josephine Baker. So, if you are looking for a story, keep looking--this is much better seen as a documentary of a bygone era. Overall, I'd give this film a 2 if you watch it with the sound turned on--it's THAT bad. But, without, it is a lovely historical record and a very well made film that deserves your attention and a 7.
By the way, there is a bit of nudity in this film--which shouldn't surprise you since this IS the Folies Bergère. Topless dancing sometimes was featured and I am a bit surprised more of this was not featured in the film. Since it is not gratuitous and is meant as more of a documentary, I wouldn't have any trouble letting kids see this--though I think most would be bored by it.
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