Zoot Suit

Luis Valdez directed this 1981 transcription of his own stage production, a Brechtian musical about the Los Angeles anti-Chicano “Zoot Suit” riots of 1942. The staging is busy and clever, though it doesn't translate that well to film, given Valdez's tendency to cut the legs off his dancers. The dialogue is mostly sub-Odets, and Valdez unconsciously contributes to the racism he's attacking by linking each character's moral quality to how well he or she speaks English. Still, there's a slithery, sinister, athletic performance by Edward James Olmos as the voice of Pachuco consciousness, and nice support from several new faces. 103 min.

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