Zou Zou

A fascinating relic of the French cinema in the mid-30sa semimusical starring the great black dancer Josephine Baker in all her glory that remains very interesting for the racial attitudes it reveals. As in the subsequent Princess Tam Tam, Baker is paired with a white male starthis time Jean Gabin as a brother by adoption and sailor-turned-electricianwho is set up as a potential lover, but who eventually passes her over for a white woman. (Baker and Gabin grow up together in the circus and wind up working at the same Paris music hall.) One of the biggest French box-office hits of its year (1934), scripted by Baker’s real-life manager and lover, Pepito Abatino, and directed by Marc Allegret, this is a vehicle designed to show off Baker as the ultimate in exotic chic, and it concludes with a delirious production number inspired by Busby Berkeley that shouldn’t be missed. In French with subtitles. 92 min. (JR)

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