This is not about the famous 19th-Century Lakota Indian Chief who led the attack at Little Bighorn. Rather, it’s a fascinating documentary by Frederick Wiseman about the legendary Parisian cabaret club featuring nude women dancers that contains revealing interviews with the dancers, producers, and director, celebrated choreographer Philippe Decouflé, as well as scenes of rehearsals and performances of their dancing called “nude chic” (also revealing).
Just as an example, in making a request that the show close for awhile to make changes for the new show, Désires, Decouflé pleads with his producers, “We claim to have the best nude dancing show in the world, and that we’re renewing this type of show, so give me the means to achieve it. If we want a dazzling premiere that will impress the intellectuals and all, let’s make it happen. Some things can never be achieved if we never close.”
In a commentary on the morality of the girls who take off their clothes to dance, referring to the act Venus, he said, “The girls often come out of this act in tears.” Andrée Deissenberg, the Managing Director of Crazy Horse, responds, “They hate touching each other…. They don’t like it. Because of the bizarre culture they have here. The girls are definitely not ‘dirty’. They really hate touching each other. They’re modest. Getting closer than this (leaning towards a woman) there seems to be an invisible wall they bump into, but they won’t get closer.”
Another woman makes an intriguing statement, “It’s probably the only place today where naked dancers on stage … really attract women! We have many women fans, many women clients. There’s a key here. When women possess the key to eroticism and enjoy it, men benefit from it … the key to eroticism is the woman.”
Another intuitive comment comes from Ali Mahdavi, the artistic director, “They’re all beautiful. But I often noticed that those of the girls who objectively have a perfect anatomy are not the best on stage: they rely only on beauty. The beauty they are born with gives them self-confidence. They don’t have to go beyond that. While those who maybe have had complexes have developed a strategy and a personality that help them transcend their handicap. It makes them more fascinating and mysterious on stage.”
My main objection to the film is that all people speaking should be identified each time they speak on camera. Even if they are identified the first time, they are all so unknown that people will inevitably forget who is who. I would have enjoyed it more had they been identified each time. But this is a minor complaint.
In addition to the interesting interviews and shots of the show, the film includes travelogue quality views of Paris.
Be warned that the film is filled with shots of naked women, who walk around backstage una-shamed of their nudity. As appealing as that might be to some, this has a lot more depth than just a movie showing nude dancers.
In French and English, at the Los Angeles Nuart from Feb. 3–9.
Last year the best film I saw was early in the year, a French film called Point Blank. I thought I might see some better, but the only thing that approached it was Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris.
Tonight (Jan. 10) I saw Contraband, and I can’t anticipate seeing anything much more entertaining. Mark Wahlberg is a former drug smuggler who is cast back into that roll with the help of his best friend (Ben Foster) to save his brother-in-law (Caleb Landry Jones), wife (Kate Beckinsale), and two children, from a ruthless crime boss (Giovanni Ribisi), in what turns into a violent caper film with twists and turns.
Set in New Orleans and on a container ship, whose captain (JK Simmons) is less than friendly towards Mark, and Panama, the cinematography (Barry Ackroyd) and music (Clinton Shorter) are both first rate. Baltasar Kormákur directs Aaron Guzikowski’s script taken from the film Reykjavik-Rotterdam with pace and tension that never lets up from the opening scene of Landry Jones dumping some drugs off a ship before the drug authorities catch him with them.
Wahlberg gives a scintillating performance, and it’s matched by Foster, Ribisi, and Beckinsale. Thrillers, like comedies, get short shrift from the Academy when it comes to awards, but everyone involved in this film deserves recognition. If films are mainly meant as entertainment, this is first rate.