A Very Sexy Documentary

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Published on January 17th, 2012 | by Charles H. Meyer

“Crazy Horse” opens Wednesday, January 18 at Film Forum.

Running time: 134 minutes; French with English subtitles.

I would be lying if I said that “Crazy Horse,” the latest documentary by Frederick Wiseman, is not a film for the prurient. Let’s just get that right out there before we proceed any further. This is an extremely sexy film, and thank goodness for that. Were it not sexy, it would completely fail, because it documents quite possibly the world’s sexiest nude dance revue, Le Crazy Horse de Paris.

Just as he did so brilliantly in his previous documentary, “La Danse: The Paris Opera Ballet,” Wiseman presents an extremely thorough look at an institution focused on the loveliness of female bodies in elegantly choreographed motion. We see everything, both on the stage and behind the scenes: the choreographers, costumiers, and stage managers arguing over the logistics of planning and mounting the show; the girls applying their make-up and putting on their costumes backstage; the girls practicing acts for the first time, then dress-rehearsing them, and finally performing them before an audience. The performers, all female except for a pair of fully clothed tap-dancing twins, are as impressively talented as they are beautiful, which becomes especially evident when we watch a dozen girls, wearing nothing but g-strings, audition to work at Le Crazy. All are beautiful, but as they stand on the stage, police line-up style, they are scrutinized with a back-and-forth exchange of whispers to determine which of them has just the right Crazy Horse “look,” just the right proportions, just the right face, breasts, legs, and ass. It might seem cruel, but we’re talking about human instruments here. And while a few of the young women show promise, it’s clear that even they will need to train for weeks or months before they can perform some of the more complicated numbers on stage.

This film isn’t just sexy, though–it’s practically hypnotizing in its eroticism. In one scene, for instance, Wiseman’s camera captures a sustained close-up of two of the girls’ torsos as they twist around each other over and over again in order to master a new dance. It’s just business as usual for them, but I found it almost vertigo-inducingly titillating. These girls are only dancing a kind of rough draft version of the final piece, but the sensuality is already there in the graceful movements of these seasoned professionals’ toned, curvaceous bodies.

In documenting Le Crazy Horse de Paris, Wiseman lays stunningly bare a relaxed, liberated, guilt-free, very French attitude towards sexuality. If you find such liberation to be as refreshing as I do, then you shouldn’t miss this film. If you’re prudish, however, or if you think that stripping is demeaning to women, I would advise you to stay at home. Before you jump to conclusions, however, you should know that Le Crazy Horse de Paris is not a typical strip joint, as these women really do seem empowered (descendants of Manet’s “Olympia” rather than Cabanel’s “Venus”), and Le Crazy happens to be surprisingly popular with female customers, many of whom find the performances inspiring.

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is Editor-in-Chief of Cinespect.

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