It was only months ago Morgan Spurlock tried to make "the blockbuster of documentary" with Pom Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold, and his profits for that did reach towards the extensively branded skyline. But veteran documentaries Frederick Wiseman isn't one to put himself on the commercial line like Spurlock-and here he proves he doesn't have to change his doc agenda to stretch his box office appeal. The subject of the doc is The Crazy Horse, a Parisian nightclub known for having the best live nude shows in the world. Naturally, this doc has a lot of skin show-it's aesthetically too beautiful to suggest Wiseman's tack could match that of National Geographic, that anthropological mag used for prurient purposes by academics' children everywhere. Where most docs about the sex industry focus on exploitation and indignity, the Crazy Horse replaces those concerns with a dedication to art and quality. The phrase "the French take this very seriously" is close in mind. The nude dancers are Broadway background quality and evidently dedicated. They work for a business of such professionalism and intelligence the notion that the club "sells sex" is oddly incorrect. Interviews with the executives give to entering reporters elucidate the meaning of seduction to philosophically complete degrees. This aside, the film about the Crazy Horse is still dishing high quality nude dance sequences with framing that values the "nice round buttocks" the costume designer is so keen to accentuate. The film is an intellectual riddle in terms: audiences could come for the documentary "culture" and stay for the sex (though most would likely mix those nouns and verbs to suit their purposes). What's crazy about this horse is that the effect the images keep you from thinking: you're too busy suppressing other feelings to consider, even in a remedial capacity, the theoretical import of the shadow dancers (they soothsay with their bodies in a space that resembles a colored cave-it's film theory 101). Wiseman can't help courting broader distribution with his subject; it does recontextualize nude displays in an artfilm and it does so in a way that's 100% guilt-free. While the guiltless eroticism seems ok, it can make a cautious watcher queasy-as if this one good strip club could inspire others to start and somehow degrade the model. An audition sequence makes the Horse look impossible to saddle: the current dancers are stringent ("Are you all Russians?" and "Your legs are too short"), a sequence that happens just after the artistic director explains that it's precisely those imperfect girls who dance the most evocatively because "they've had to learn to work with what they've got." Yes: it's a document of the gold standard of strip clubs (with minimal deconstruction) and it may gain a wider release than Wiseman's previous films ever could, but for audience draw...did I mention it's about a strip club?
Contact: Zipporah Films firstname.lastname@example.org 617.576.3603
Director: Fred Wiseman
Genre: Documentary; French-language, subtitled
Running time: 129 min.
Release date: Unset
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