Crazy Horse (Zipporah Films, NR)

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film crazy-horse_75Everyone who wants to see it can plead as justification, “I only read it for the articles.”




film crazy-horse_500

It seems like a blessing to nerds everywhere that the great 82-year-old documentarian Frederick Wiseman has selected the famous French cabaret club the Crazy Horse for the subject of his newest documentary: Since a great filmmaker has made a documentary about nude dancers, everyone who wants to see it can plead as justification, “I only read it for the articles.” And Crazy Horse doesn’t play coy with the subject how Hollywood movies have trained us to expect—there are naked people onscreen for a big percentage of the film’s running time. That said, it’s tastefully enough done that you won’t feel like too much of a pervert watching it, and the film should have some appeal to just about anyone with any kind of interest in dance, whether or not they’re interested in seeing naked women.

That is to say that, while the Crazy Horse features nude dancers, it’s not any kind of modern American idea of a strip club. The whole production is very artistically done, replete with talented dancers, respected choreographers, a strong production team, etc. So far as I can tell from the movie, one of the key features that elevates the Crazy Horse’s style above the typical nude dancing fray is a tendency toward artistic lighting—that in its own way may just as well be a costume, as intricately as it has been designed to lay over the women’s bodies. (Prepare yourself for long conversations about whether lighting makes the women’s butts look bony versus round.)

The film goes happily back and forth between footage of the finished product onstage and the preparations for how it got to that point. During the 10-week period Wiseman was filming, the Crazy Horse employed a choreographer named Philippe Decouflé who was mounting a new production entitled “Désir,” for which he had to train the dancers in between their 15-shows-a-week schedule. There’s not a great deal of drama here—aside from the staging of a new production, Wiseman did not visit them at a particularly trying time—so you more just get to see the inner workings of the club without any particular reason beyond bringing the filmmakers there.

As such, based on just the simplest description of the film, you should have a pretty good idea of if you’d enjoy it or not, as it is pretty much exactly what it sounds like: a well-put-together (no pun intended) documentary about a club known for nude dancers. Beyond that, there’s nothing too specific to credit it with or complain about. It’s perhaps a bit overlong, though I’d bet that many would argue with me that no film about nude dancers could ever be too long. Really, the only thing I can stay against it that sticks is that part of the “Désir” show has the dancers sing a Crazy Horse/Désir theme song and it’s just atrocious, though it’s that certain type of atrocious that will stick in your head for days after. So long as you can handle that, you’ll probably like this movie just fine. | Pete Timmermann

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