Frederick Wiseman has made 37 award-winning documentaries, beginning with Titicut Follies (1967), a stark graphic portrayal of the conditions at the Massachusetts State Prison for the Criminally Insane. Now, after a long career of hard-hitting exposés, Wiseman has gone from one kind of crazy house to another – the Crazy Horse.
The legendary Paris exotic dance show, the Crazy Horse, is famous worldwide as the premier venue for sophisticated and sensual female nudity. Crazy Horse’s uniqueness is based upon gorgeous, classically trained dancers bathed in richly colored and textured lighting designs. Its luxurious setting in a group of aged wine cellars on avenue George V adds to its allure of nude chic.
Wiseman spent ten weeks at the Crazy Horse. He filmed the preparation of the cabaret’s new show, DÉSIRS, staged by Philippe Decouflé, a celebrated French choreographer. The film’s audience has a behind-the-scenes view of the development and preparation of the show, its costumes, make-up, lighting, backstage disputes and the rehearsals of the intricate choreography.
Wiseman’s documentary technique is to plant himself in the middle of his subject matter and film what he sees. There is no narrative; he doesn’t do interviews, and there is not always a conclusion per se. His strength is usually in the editing of his films so that his vision emerges from the process.
Despite the glamorous eye candy, Crazy Horse would have benefited from sharper editing and a clearer point of view. I found myself losing interest in images that should have been appealing. At 128 minutes, the film meandered and then just ended. For many, however, the exotic dancing will be enough to make Crazy Horse an entertaining experience.
Crazy Horse opens March 2, 2012 at Shattuck Cinemas, 2230 Shattuck Avenue, downtown Berkeley.
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