10/14 - Earlier in my CIFF diary I was commenting on how the film American Translation nearly soured me on one of the beautiful details of human existence: the nipple. Little did I know back on Day 2 of the fest that I would get tickets for a screening of the new film from the 81 year-old grandfather of American documentary film Frederick Wiseman, and that he would repair that brief accident of erotica. With his new feature, Crazy Horse, Wiseman takes us inside the iconic Parisian cabaret club that was founded in 1951 by Alain Bernardin. Wiseman spent 10 weeks inside the club, and the film keeps itself mostly focused on the musical numbers of the current manifestation of the "Crazy Horse" show, but also includes scenes of rehearsal with the creators, designers, and dancers involved in the ongoing production. Only briefly does Wiseman allow us to emerge from the club, spend a few minutes with a city street or a police boat crossing the river before plunging us back into the night club.
What Wiseman is so brilliant at is evoking so many great questions without ever interjecting his own literal voice into the film, choosing instead to simply capture and let the images speak for themselves. For instance, the "Crazy Horse" definitely presents some problematic depictions of sexuality, as the consistent template for a "Crazy Horse" dancer is one of strictly uniform body type. This tends to drain the often artistically sophisticated dance numbers of any genuine erotic quality, rather than enhance it. For a film that is so seemingly simple in it's construct and passive in it's point of view, Crazy Horse uncovers all of the layers, from the inherent sexism to the behind-the-scenes conflicts, which will surprise no one who has ever been involved in theatrical production, erotic or otherwise.
In some of it's best moments, Crazy Horse comes off like an experimental documentary featuring buns and polka dots. One particularly memorable shot shows a landscape of buns, undulating like a time-lapse capture of silky sand dunes as they're affected over time by the eroding winds. No film has ever presented asses the way Wiseman does in Crazy Horse. I would be willing to hazard a guess that of the endless libraries of porn dedicated to the multiple variations of ass-based exploitation, there is not a film among them that shoots buns as adeptly as Wiseman. A marvelous, hypnotic, and funny documentary.
|Frederick Wiseman's Crazy Horse|
Up Next: Bela Tarr's The Turin Horse