Legong: Dance of the Virgins (1935), “authentic” Balinese love story

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Legong: Dance of the Virgins (1935) was shot in Bali by big names of the day.  While few people have ever seen it, it’s quite popular with those who have, including Bloom and Hagedorn. They relate  that, upon “distribution by Paramount [some] scenes of nudity were trimmed for domestic release in the United States, and shots of cockfights were excised from the British prints.”

Part 1     Part 2     Part 3

The film is generally felt to be a sincere  attempt to tell a love story from or in alignment with the point of view of a 1930’s Bali teen (good luck ; )

Essentially a silent movie, there was an original musical score supposedly representing Balinese music. In fact, it was more “consistent with American interwar travelogue films generally” say the critics.

Legong was restored by the UCLA Film Archive and released on DVD in 2004. This made it somewhat more authentic and there was renewed excitement and many screenings, especially in Cali. The new soundtrack results from a collaboration between Gamelan Sekar Jaya — a San Francisco-based performing arts group dedicated to Balinese music — and Club Foot Orchestra, the Bay Area ensemble that, according the critics cited, “pioneered the modern use of live music in silent film.”

The picture was also restored, although the original two-tone processing (featured in the slide show above) is kind of trippy.  The original score used Western instruments and was pretty bad generally.

So femme fatal Poutou (pronounced “Putu”) is played by Poetoe Aloes Goesti.

And Legong shouldn’t be confused with Virgins of Bali, a goona-goona exploitation flick that came out three years earlier.


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