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Friday, 16 March 2012 00:00

'Crazy Horse' plods though its paces

'Crazy Horse' plods though its paces indiewire.com
Written by Diane Carson
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About this Media...

  • Director: Frederick Wiseman
  • Dates: Opens March 16, 2012

For over forty years, producer, director and editor Frederick Wiseman has crafted unique nonfiction films. Choosing institutions or groups as subjects, adding no interpretive voiceover narration, refusing to intrude with his queries, Wiseman delivers a fly-on-the-wall immersion. His latest documentary takes viewers inside Paris' Crazy Horse, described by the director as "supposedly the best chic nude show on earth."

A legend, Wiseman reveals practices at mental institutions in his1967 Titticut Follies, followed by High School, Law and Order, Basic Training, Welfare, Ballet, Public Housing, and Boxing Gym, among others. In each as in Crazy Horse, he places the viewer in a privileged observer's position, letting events unfold without offering a heavy-handed viewpoint. Of course, his selection of footage from the hours and hours he shoots establishes an implicit perspective.

Constructing his film, Wiseman teases out significant themes and revealing moments, but he resists chronological narratives or explicit, satisfying closure for issues. This creates some frustration when topics aren't pursued. His latest—Crazy Horse—with his signature style, exhibits the strengths and weaknesses of this approach as a majority of the 2¼ hour film presents nude or semi-nude women performing in various thematic pieces writhing and rolling, especially their hips and buttocks. We learn almost nothing about them or from them.

The real reason they're on stage is obvious though artistic director Ali, quite disingenuously, theorizes about eroticism, how sophisticated and inspiring this show is for women, whom, he says, it really attracts. There are no nude men and the issue of sexism is never confronted or explored.

Director Philippe does express his frustration that Crazy Horse doesn't shut down for several weeks so they can mount new acts. Reportedly, shareholders refuse, end of that story. The costume designer expresses similar complaints, lighting is rehearsed and discussed, part of an audition for new dancers is included, occasionally an audience watches the show, and shots of life on Parisian streets punctuate activities inside Crazy Horse. That's it. If Wiseman hopes to take the mystery out of the show, Crazy Horse succeeds but it is a disappointment. Primarily in French with English subtitles, though there isn't a lot of talking. At a Landmark Theatre.

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