Frederick Wiseman became famous in 1967 with his documentary Titicut Follies, an exposé of a hospital for the criminally insane. The title refers to a pageant staged by the inmates. His latest film also involves pageantry, and this time, titties. In Crazy Horse, Wiseman explores the eponymous Paris nightclub that offers a buffet of nude dancing girls who perform exquisite musical production numbers. If there's an art to dancing naked — and to filming it — then Crazy Horse puts both on copious display. (It's more than two hours long.)
As usual with Wiseman, there's no narration, just people going about their lives, so you have to supply the insight. Wiseman films the numbers gorgeously, starting with "Paroxysm," a word better experienced than said (if you're lucky). Soon we go behind the scenes for rehearsals ("Throw it forward! Stretch, bend!"), lighting decisions, costuming and the usual challenges (stingy investors, time constraints, a perfectionist director).
Wiseman's verité film certainly proves that these folks take their art seriously (and, at times, self-importantly). But after seeing even one elegant song and dance, why would we think they didn't? His film is a worthwhile, if ultimately somewhat unsurprising, record of it all. In English and French, with subtitles. Starts Fri., March 16. Harris