Not just a curio, but a strangely compelling pop cultural experience from the 1930s. Truly sumptuous and beguiling in its surreal assemblage of intricately staged numbers, the restoration presented on the Criterion collection disc is so clear at times that it's almost disturbing. The red and green tint makes it feel like a glimpse into some alternate, bizarro world.
At heart, a silly little revue film, where jazz is, well, not really jazz. But this recent restoration is probably the best looking film from this time period we are likely to ever see, and there are some truly amazing cinematic moments here, the Rhapsody in Blue number in particular. I blind bought it based on reviews, don't regret it. Great entertainment. 4 stars
Oh, Christ, I think somebody dosed my tea, I am tripping balls! Or rather: cinema, you magician, you conjurer, you occult whatsit, I hand myself over to you, do w/ me as you please, but please, please, please be gentle. Or not. KING OF JAZZ is not especially gentle. I am properly jostled. I wouldn't have it any other way. The twentieth century was a sinister orgy!
If La La Land rubbed you the wrong way, brace for an era when the so-called "king of jazz" was not only a white man, but literally named "Whiteman." But if you're into Hollywood esoterica—and don't pretend you aren't—this time capsule fires off sights/sounds too fast for boredom and fascinating even when they horrify. Some would say it's the sort of movie to get high to. For me, it makes hallucinogens unnecessary.
The "Rhapsody in Blue" number (in two-color Technicolor) is something to see...part Ziegfeld, part Fantasia, part Busby Berkeley. Not to mention the thrill of hearing Paul Whiteman's orchestra perform the definitive version of the song. This is one of the few revue-style films of the early sound period that doesn't require liberal use of the fast-forward button.