A visual and musical extravaganza!
Barbara (Burkowsky) Underwood | Manly, NSW Australia | 05/24/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
""La Revue des Revues" must surely count as one of the most unusual and perhaps unique films from the silent era, being more of a 1927 cabaret show than an actual traditional silent film. In fact, you could well be excused for thinking that you are watching a contemporary albeit somewhat other-worldly music and dance show most of the time, thanks to the Pathe stencil technique used to colour the twenty or so revue scenes in this 100-minute film. Coming just a few years after an entire full-length film was colourized in this time-consuming Pathe stencil process, namely for "Cyrano de Bergerac", the colourful dance scenes in "La Revue des Revues" are definitely the highlight of this film even today, ¾ of a century later. Unlike filming in colour using coloured filters, the stencil process gives the picture a soft, pastel tone like watercolour which is easy on the eye while also giving it a touch of the surreal. This is especially notable in the gold and other shimmery metallic colours of some costumes and curtains. There are opening title cards introducing the name of each revue as well as the names of the performers so that watching this film is really like stepping back into time to experience the famous (or infamous!) Jazz Age of `gay Paris' in its notorious nightclubs of 1927. The modern-sounding original musical score is Jazz in many varying styles, and although not authentic from that period, is still quite well suited to the dances, setting and overall mood. No doubt it will have varied reactions from viewers and might take some getting used to at first, especially when it accompanies the rest of the actual silent film, but it might become more acceptable when viewed as something of an historic time capsule capturing the essence of the nightclub shows in Paris 80 years ago. Personal musical tastes aside, the many spectacular and colourful dance scenes, often with outrageous hats and costumes, are really something to see, as well as being an education in general, and surely also a treat especially for those interested in dance and entertainment.
One note of disappointment might be the misleading credits which give the impression that the highest paid music hall entertainer, Josephine Baker, features prominently in this film, while in fact she only appears in two rather short revues that appear over an hour into the film. Even so, it is worth the wait to see what all the fuss was about, and why this long-legged, exotic dark beauty became such a huge star. Some of her unusual dance moves are slightly reminiscent of Michael Jackson's `moonwalk'. The main character in the actual film - which are the black & white scenes with intertitles - stars a blonde actress named Helene Hallier who plays the role of an average young woman working a dull job in a clothes factory but dreams of being on stage one day. She gets her big break when her small feet are the right size for some Cinderella-style slippers, and just like the fairytale, she finds love and success thereafter, but not before a few little hiccups. The actual story is rather short and superficial, and basically only serves as the foundation to present the many varied revue shows, long and short, exotic, bizarre and amusing, but always thoroughly entertaining and surely also fascinating for us in our day to see these shows pretty much as they were back in 1927. It is for this reason, its unique nature and beautifully coloured `blast from the past' that I give this DVD 5 stars.
The Silence of Music
George W. Lynn | 06/07/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)
"More interesting than engaging. Certainly the only "silent" musical I've ever seen. The title "La Revue des Revues" is quite accurate. It's really more a series of filmed musical numbers than an actual movie although as noted by others, it does have a nominal plot. I found the modern jazz score disconcerting, but I suppose trying to match the dance routines to actual 20's music was too hard to attempt. The dance routines lack the flash and polish of the later Busby Berkely movies, a fair number of these folks would have been cut during the tryouts in "42nd Street", but many of the dance numbers remain fascinating to watch and some are fairly eccentric. And then, of course, there's the great Josephine Baker. Even though she is in only 2 numbers, she is indeed the primary reason to watch this film. Alas, none of her famous "banana costume" numbers, but she is infintely more alive than any other dancer in this film. It's not hard to understand how she captivated her European audience."
The origins of A CHORUS LINE...
Chip Kaufmann | Asheville, N.C. United States | 05/19/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"...42ND STREET and Busby Berkeley, the Goldwyn Girls, and any other backstage musical on film that you can think of can be found in LA REVUE. What makes it so intriguing is that this is a SILENT musical. That may sound like an oxymoron but it really isn't. The lavish stagings and the incredible variety of costumes not to mention the performances of Josephine Baker, Stanislawa Welska, Lila Nikolska, and others were meant to be seen as well as heard.
This being a silent film, it's been provided with musical accompaniment, a brand new score by Taranta-Babu. Unfortunately I found the jazz style used too modern in tone which does not reflect the period and as a result I felt it detracted from the film as a whole but not enough to put me off and the quieter parts were quite effective. The plotline is your typical small time girl makes good although here they literally incorporate the story of CINDERELLA as the heroine gets her big break by winning "the smallest foot in France" contest which involves trying on a slipper. Helene Hallier is engaging as the chorus girl but the male lead Andre Luguel is stiff and colorless with too much makeup although to be fair that was typical of that type of part during this period.
As the title promises though LA REVUE DES REVUES is all about the stagings of which there are over a dozen. Scenes from the Moulin Rouge, the Palais and the Folies Bergere are captured on film for posterity reflecting the Art Deco style and the bizarre tastes of 1927 Paris (see The Orgies and The Golfer numbers). According to the liner notes it took 10 years and over 7 different prints to come up with this version which is tinted and features the Pathe' hand stencilled color process although a lot of it looks as if it were computer colored. As a historical document it's priceless (seeing rows of full figured showgirls going through their paces instead of today's stick figures would make Kate Winslet proud) but as entertainment it won't be everyone's cup of tea.
The love story is routine and parts of the film are badly paced but when the curtain goes up just sit back and enjoy the show. A must for fans of early musicals, silent films, and 1920s Paris but be warned. Although prominently displayed on the cover (in a costume she doesn't wear) Josephine Baker appears in only 2 numbers with a screen time of less than 7 minutes in an overall running time of 103 so don't buy it just for her."
This could have been so great
Pterodactra | 07/03/2008
(3 out of 5 stars)
"The stunning visuals are ruined by the jarring and incongruent modern musical score which is dominated by droning rock rhythms that fail horribly to sync with the motion on screen. I recommend watching it with the sound turned OFF, or accompanied by a Jazz CD from the era of the film. It is hard to comprehend why anyone would choose to mar this classical footage by paring it with such an inappropriate soundtrack. Modern music could have worked beautifully if it had been done with any sensitivity to the piece itself, and written to accompany and support the segments of the film."