Film Review: CRAZY HORSE

Crazy Horse
A Documentary by Frederick Wiseman

Over the years, we have seen quite a few of Frederick Wiseman’s documentaries. His first documentary THE COOL WORLD was in 1963, and it was followed by the more famous TITICUT FOLLIES. He has gone on to make dozens of movies about many subjects. Ones dealing with the high school experience, the welfare system, and a hospital are among the most famous. A few years ago, we saw a wonderful one on the ballet company of the Paris Opera.

The perception is that Wiseman turns a camera on a subject and lets a story unfold. This is only partly true. According to Wiseman, he does manipulate his subjects and he does edit the movie to put a form to it. There is no narration however; no interactive interviews and no attempts to explain the film-making process. He makes his films very quickly, an asset but also limiting in some cases. Perhaps the real story would have taken place a month later. He films more than one hundred hours of footage to edit it down to a two-hour film.

CRAZY HORSE was not my favorite Wiseman film. Crazy Horse is a Paris nudie show that opened in 1951. Albeit one with a strong pretense toward art. The film spends most of its time showing you nearly nude girls doing their acts. Either the choreographer or Wiseman himself is especially interested in bottoms. Each girl is a replica of the next one. They are chosen more for their similarity than their ability to dance although some seem to have ballet training. This similarity in body type is probably true of the Rockettes and the girls who danced for Busby Berkley too although they keep their clothes on.

We never really see the audience and can’t help but wonder if it’s composed entirely of tourists or if the French can’t get enough of nude women. The girls are never asked why they are there. Is the revue an end in itself or do they hope to be discovered and go on to a loftier revue? Although the artistic director claims otherwise, clearly the main purpose is to titillate and not to convince the audience they are partaking of art.

I expected my husband to have enjoyed this more than I did, but he said he was ready to leave after an hour. Much like syncopated swimming is something of a joke, so is syncopated women. Naked or not.

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