Crazy Horse (2011) was directed, co-produced, and edited by Frederick Wiseman. Wiseman is a brilliant director of documentaries. His style is to show us only what the camera sees. There's never any voice-over or reference to the filming in any of Wiseman's movies, including this one. Obviously, he controls what is on the screen by choosing what he will film, and then choosing what will be cut and what will remain in the movie. But the film explains itself, without any on-screen or off-screen commentary from Wiseman. Crazy Horse is a club in Paris that is billed as having the most sophisticated nude review in the world. Nudity above the waist is a given at Crazy Horse. The women are casual about it, and so is Wiseman. There's some "full frontal" nudity, but it's not emphasized. So, if this picture were rated, it would probably receive an R. The movie actually shows very little of what the audience sees. Most of what we see are the endless discussions and rehearsals that go into making the show seamless, elegant, and professional. There are only two members of the staff we get to know well. One is Philippe Decouflé, the Director. Mostly we see Decouflé's frustration. He wants to close the show for a few weeks to bring the lighting and everything else up to date. He's held in check by a woman who represents "the shareholders." She says, "I agree but they won't buy it." That's a cop-out-- we know it and she knows it. As far as I could tell, the club didn't close, and the show may not have met Philippe's standards. The Artistic Director--whose name I never learned--is, by his own admission, obsessed by Crazy Horse. He talks on and on about how excited he is to be doing what he's doing, how important Crazy Horse is in his life, how he and Philippe work seamlessly together, etc. I found most of his comments tedious and repetitious, and I think the movie would have worked better with less screen time for him. As usual, Wiseman really isn't about wrapping everything up in a tidy package. There are many scenes that represent fragments of ongoing processes. We see what Wiseman shows us, and we don't get the entire sequence from beginning to end. This isn't a good film for someone who wants an informative scholarly documentary. It's impressionistic and non-linear. Interesting, but not fully satisfying. One surprise for me was the respect everyone seems to have for the women dancers. I somehow had expected that the dancers would be treated more or less like cattle, but I didn't see this. Another surprise was the gentleness with which prospective dancers were treated at audition. One of the rules of Crazy Horse is that the women should be indistinguishable--the same height, slender, with small- to medium-sized breasts and long legs. So, of course, the women auditioned nude from the waist up. But the attitude of the woman in charge of the audition was friendly and cheerful, and definitely not demeaning. (You could argue that auditioning when your breasts are exposed is inherently demeaning. However, when you are auditioning for a nude revue, modesty simply can't be factored in.) This wasn't a great film, but I thought it was worth seeing. (I think all Wiseman documentaries are worth seeing--he's a genius.) We saw Crazy Horse on a large screen at the excellent Dryden Theatre in Rochester, but it will work as well on DVD.
A look inside Paris' Crazy Horse, a club that boasts the greatest and most chic nude dancing in the world.
October 12, 2020