Venice Film Festival 2011 // Crazy Horse

Curious Joe is at the Venice Film Festival. Check back here daily or follow us on Facebook for sporadic film reviews and discussions of the arty variety.

Directed by Frederick Wiseman
Country: France

Apparently the Crazy Horse nude dancing venue in Paris is as hotly desired by tourists as the Eiffel Tower. I don’t know about you, but I personally don’t see the similarities between naked women dancing ‘erotically’, and some quite tall scaffolding.

Frederick Wiseman’s film is an objective fly on the wall documentary about the venue, watching the shows, observing the audience and mainly, watching how the directors and designers work backstage to make it happen. The venue prides itself on using eroticism as an art form, but trust me when I say there is absolutely nothing erotic about the shows they put on.

The dancers hid behind the screens when they realised their Dads were in the audience

They’re certainly artistic, yes, there are points when the use of lighting on the women (who are effectively used as canvas’) is admirable, but that’s no excuse for what’s a misogynistic and soulless display of disrespect for women. If you ever watch the film, look out for the artist director of the show’s definition of femininity, it’s quite extraordinarily shallow (apparently any woman who doesn’t try to look beautiful after the age of 25 is “denying their femininity”).

As a film (and especially as a documentary) however it is well made. On watching it I was given the impression this was a place the director Wiseman felt attuned to and wanted to promote, but during a Q+A today, his objectivity towards film making was very evident, and he in fact took offence to being compared to some of the people in the film. When I asked him what his personal view of femininity was and how it changed during filming, he refused to answer, which only highlighted that he clearly doesn’t feel it is relevant to the film itself, as any documentary maker should feel.

So given how technically well made this is as a documentary, the only thing worth discussing is the venue and show itself (the film largely focuses on an upcoming show at the venue called ‘Desire’). In some ways it was sexism at its worst, as it tried to disguise it as an intellectual art form so as to avoid the usual criticisms similar venues might face. As I said, it might’ve been artistic, but this is no excuse whatsoever for the venue and show’s blatant display of misogyny. And having naked women dance ‘erotically’ in fantasy dress is not an intellectual art form (as talented as the dancers and directors and crew might be).

Wiseman did a good job however during the Q+A of defending the dancers in the show, defensively pointing out that none of them are call girls, as some people have claimed, and that they are all professional dancers who are treated as such when it comes to their employment and personal lives (they’re all married and use stage names whilst working).

In other Venice related news, the French/Canadian ‘Cafe De Flore’ is captivating in every means of the word. It might be because it’s exactly my kind of film, but the abstract nature of it combined with interweaving yet separate plot lines was visually breathtaking. I would give it a full review but it’s one of those films where I just don’t feel I can do it justice by doing so.

Now I’m off to see a couple films (of which I know nothing), and tonight I’ll be queuing desperately to get into the world premiere of ‘Inni’, the new Sigur Ros film, also being shown as part of Venice Days. WORDS CANNOT EXPLAIN HOW MUCH I WANT THIS TO HAPPEN. (But on the plus side, even if I don’t get in I’ve got tickets to see ‘Sal’, the James Franco film, so all’s good in the hood.)

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