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France/Switzerland 1989
Directed by
Christine Pascal
95 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2.5 stars


Director Christine Pascal was a French actress who worked regularly for Bertrand Tavernier and who began directing in 1979, This film about a troubled actress (Fabienne Babe) caught between the demands of her producer (Andre Marcon) and director (Francis Girod) as they make a film called 'Zanzibar' is no doubt grounded in her own experience.

Whilst it will be of interest to those who collect films about making films in itself Zanzibar lacks the charms of Godard’s comparable Contempt (1963) whilst making much use of his self-reflexive, distancing techniques and, more importantly, wears out one’s sympathy with the unrelenting miserableness of the main characters, all of whom suffer from dire self-loathing and spend the entire film inflicting their pain on each other.

It is of little surprise to learn that Catherine Breillat, another actress turned writer-director who very much followed in Pascal’s footsteps (Pascal committed suicide in 1996 whilst hospitalised for depression) in the life-is-hell-let’s-make-a-movie-about-it school of French cinema, co-wrote the script.




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