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Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life Is Calling

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Richard Pryor's pseudonymous autobiography: drugs, liquor, multiple marriages, boyhood in a brothel -- all that. It begins with his infamous free-base accident (well, first it begins with an R&B vocalist chanting "I'm the ruler of my destiny./ I can determine what becomes of me"). And then in the hospital, an alter ego gets up and leaves his body on the gurney -- like many an angel of movies past -- and sets out, something like Scrooge in A Christmas Carol, to walk through his life (or really, skip through his life) in order to find out why he has ended up that way. But Pryor the director and co-scriptwriter has transformed his unconventional life into a panorama of conventionalized "biopic" episodes -- one way, certainly, to come to terms with life or at least to deaden its pain. Answers, however, are nowhere to be found -- maybe that's why the "Rosebud" sled from Citizen Kane is mounted on the wall at one point -- and the accumulated evidence is never as revealing as the stand-up routines of his concert films. The best section encompasses his first struggles as a professional comic, and in particular the performance of Paula Kelly as the benevolent queen of a very tiny municipality: the Shalimar strip club in Cleveland. With Billy Eckstine and Debbie Allen. (1986) — Duncan Shepherd

Rated R

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