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Reviews for January 18th, 2012

The City Dark

Directed by Ian Cheney

Number of times I checked my watch: 1
Opens at the IFC Center.
Released by Argot Pictures.

Crazy Horse

Directed by Frederick Wiseman

      Crazy Horse, a Parisian cabaret club founded in 1951, remains a very popular tourist attraction to this very day. Nude women dance on stage, but it's not your typical nude dance club which explains why its wealthy clientele, which includes women, men and even couples, show up in droves. Instead of naked women simply showing off their flesh while dancing, the show's choreographer, Phillippe Decouflé, combines art and sensuality to make for a very titillating, sophisticated and unique experience. You'll find lots of great music, flashy lights and colors, and very interesting articles of clothing that tease the audience. So, it should be no surprise that this documentary offers plenty of eye candy.

      Director Frederick Wiseman, who previously directed Le Danse and Boxing Gym, knows how to make the audience feel like a voyeur that's merely observing what's going on front-stage and backstage. Wiseman doesn't opt for the facile form of documentary filmmaking with lots of talking heads and background info about anyone on camera. The little bits of info that you do learn, though, are scattered throughout the film. The behind-the-scenes conflicts that arise rather late and ephemerally via some creative tensions that transpire as Decouflé insists on following his artistic vision without making any changes just for the sake of pleasing shareholders. He makes a very convincing argument through an analogy: if you purchase a painting, you don't have the right to tell the artist to change the position of something in the painting to suit your own tastes. You'll have to wait until the very end of the film for some form of levity via a hilarious moment when artistic director Ali Mahdavi rambles on and on, talking a lot and saying very little while Decoufle rolls his eyes.

      There's certainly more to the nude dance club's dancers than meets the eye as Mahdavi explains, but Wiseman never really delves into the dancers' lives deeply---he barely even scratches the surface for that matter. You don't even where the meaning of the club's name to begin with.

Perhaps Wiseman prefers you to glean whatever little insight might be found the film or just to feel entertained and amazed at the footage from the dance rehearsals and show. Either way, he could have easily edited out half an hour of the running time because at 2 hours and 14 minutes, it does tend to drag and feel a bit tedious.

Number of times I checked my watch: 2
Opens at the Film Forum.
Released by Zipporah Films.

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