NYFF Spotlight: Crazy Horse
Posted by John Heavey on 9.27.2011
Why you should see it:
True to form, acclaimed documentary filmmaker Frederick Wiseman’s signature observational style invites the viewer to be a fly on the wall of the legendary Parisian burlesque club Crazy Horse. While capturing the rich texture of the performances, Wiseman simlutaneously elucidates the highly constructed world that lies behind the dances and the effort that goes into each step. Juxtaposing the seamlessly elegant performances with the grueling rigor behind the choreography, set construction and rehearsal, as well as the broader strokes of business and strategy in production meetings, Wiseman offers something close to an objective reality. He gives the audience an intimate and detailed look at what is a typically very removed, impersonal setting. Ending with an extended view of the new show, Crazy Horse is as enjoyable as it is evocative.
Crazy Horse has played the Venice Film Festival and the Toronto International Film Festival.
About the Director:
Frederick Wiseman is one of the most established American documentary filmmakers working today and a pioneer of the observational mode and cinéma vérité. Wiseman’s films completely immerse viewers in social institutions (high schools, hospitals, clubs, etc.), and oftentimes, even without expository or interactive narration, will give voice to marginalized groups and evoke emotional responses from the audience. Producing and directing all of his films, usually in partnership with PBS, Wiseman has consistently created features that are moving and engaging while remaining essentially impartial. It is this balance of exploration and seeming objectivity that has made Wiseman a true master of documentary cinema.
What the critics are saying:
Todd McCarthy for The Hollywood Reporter: “Wiseman seizes the opportunity to create an impressionistic portrait of a highly rarified realm, a tiny sanctuary from real life where the refined expression of sensuality, eroticism and, as per the name of the new show the film documents, desire is the be-all and end-all. Beautifully wrought images capture the dancing, the costumes, the simple but elegant and settings and, of course, the exquisitely shaped girls, very often enhanced by striking and sophisticated lighting techniques and backed by generally catchy songs and techno rhythms."
What the NYFF programmers say:
"Crazy Horse is a new film by the legendary documentary director Frederick Wiseman. As I mention in the program notes, a couple of years ago Wiseman made one of his biggest hits with a documentary about the Paris Opera Ballet called La Danse. You can say Crazy Horse is a sequel to La Danse, focusing on another legendary Paris cultural institution: the Crazy Horse erotic cabaret. Wiseman has filmed, very lovingly, in front of and behind the scenes as the dancers and choreographers create a new revue. You see everything from the auditions to the costume fittings to the rehearsals, and even the artists battling with the management over having enough time to perfect their routines, and so forth. And then we see the actual show itself: Melissa Anderson and I are particular fans of a number known as Baby Bums, which seems to be a house favorite there. It’s really a very enjoyable film that may surprise some of the audience with the amounts of flesh on display. It’s like taking a trip to the Crazy Horse, without having to get aboard a plane." —Scott Foundas, Associate Program Director