Friday, March 20, 2009

Zou Zou & Princesse Tam Tam

As part of the ever-expanding footprint of Seattle's "Moisture Festival" vaudeville extravaganza, the SIFF Cinema is presenting a week long film program highlighting the world of cinematic varietè, circus, and burlesque. On Sunday March 22nd, SIFF is showcasing a rare Josephine Baker double bill - the 1934 film "Zou Zou", followed by "Princesse Tam Tam" from 1935.

Baker, who was born Freda Josephine McDonald in 1906, had a minor American career as a vaudeville comedian and chorus girl, but like any Black performer at that time she was seriously limited in the level of success she could attain. However, when Josephine traveled to Paris with a new venture, La Revue Nègre, she became a sensation. Everything about Josephine Baker was new and exotic - her famously bold costumes, her uninhibited dancing, and her unabashed sexuality. Her career thrived in integrated Paris society, and by 1927 she was the highest paid entertainer in Europe. She tried to return to the United States a number of times as a star performer but the ventures proved disastrous and Josephine lived the rest of her in France.

The two films being shown in Seattle, created specifically as starring vehicles for the charismatic performer, represent Baker at the height of her career.

The film series, which opens on March 20, also features the Wim Wenders film "Wings of Desire", the Jacques Tati opus "Playtime", and the film "Gypsy" which stars Natalie Wood as burlesque legend Gypsy Rose Lee.

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