Copyright 1995 ABC-CLIO. This review was taken from the ABC-CLIO Video Rating Guide for Libraries on CD-ROM, a 5-year compilation of over 8900 video titles and reviews, 1990-1994. For information regarding order VRGL CD-ROM, contact: ABC-CLIO, P.O. Box 1911, Santa Barbara, CA 93116-1911; 805-968-1911

This following text has been included in the UCB Media Resources Center Web site with the kind permission of the publishers.

J'ai Ete au Bal (I Went to the Dance)

  • Rating: ****
  • Audience: High School to Adult
  • Price: Public performance: $109.95
  • Date: Copyright 1989. Released 1990.
  • Descriptors: Music. Zydeco music.
  • Production Information: Live action, Stills, Film transfer. Produced by Chris Strachwitz, Les Blank. Directed by Chris Strachwitz, Les Blank. Narrated by Barry Jean Ancelet, Michael Doucet. Color, b&w. Also available in 16 mm . 84 min.
  • Production Company: Brazos Films
  • Available from: Flower Films 10341 San Pablo Ave. El Cerrito, CA 94530 (510) 525-0942
  • Cataloging: 780.410'73 Zydeco music
  • Print Entry #: 2:730
  • Reviewer: DJ Palladino

    For most of his life, Les Blank has used his mind and heart in the pursuit of filming what seem to be the sidebars of the American story. Once these unlikely subjects, such as Tex-Mex culture, gap-toothed women, and the vibrant life of Louisiana, pass through Blank's camera to be displayed on a screen, they are more likely to suggest what is universal in all human cultures. How we eat, how we dress, or how we express ourselves in music and dance.

    This seamless, visually thrilling documentary is the masterpiece for which many earlier Blank films seem now to be sketches, although it by no means diminishes his earlier work. And it's all here, everything you wanted to know about Cajun, Creole, and Zydeco music, with ample examples from the musicians. Such legends as Joe Falcon, Dennis McGee, and Amede Ardoin are displayed alongside contemporary greats like Queen Ida, Beausoleil, and Wayne Toups and all kinds of artists in between. The production traverses the history of this regional music without ever seeming pedantic and it points out how the Cajun scene was threatened with assimilation into a homogenized America, but has rebounded with a great contemporary vitality. Queen Ida speaks of the Cajun belt in Louisiana and Texas as another country seemingly cut off from the rest of America. But by the end of the tape you realize that this rich stew of French, Caribbean, and cowboy cultures is America in one of its more vivid recipes - our spiciest melting-pot. You even get a lesson on how exactly (in five levels) Cajun accordion is played.

    Les Blank is a human camera. His cinematography never calls attention to itself; it tells its story perfectly. You see a real Louisiana, not one gussied up for tourists. At the same time, Blank makes the old stores, bars, and paint-peeling walls seem part of the story. The shots of musicians and the sound quality of their performances are moving - you feel like dancing. Though the movie seems a trifle long to me, the editing effects are sometimes startling. (The ripples in the musical washboard rhyme with the waves following a canoe in the next scene.) This highly recommended video is a must for libraries with an interest in great music, American culture, or entertainment. That is, all of us.

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