Crazy Horse (Désir), directed by Frederick Wiseman, goes behind the scenes of the Crazy Horse cabaret, one of Paris’s most famous topless revues. This is the third film in Wiseman’s trilogy of documentaries about Parisian artistic establishments. (The other two focused on La Comédie-Française and the Paris Opera Ballet.)
The Crazy Horse was established in 1951, and since then has become a huge tourist attraction and an international franchise. The film follows the struggles backstage as the new choreographer, Philippe Decouflé, attempts to teach the dancers new numbers, construct a completely new show, and oversee its production, all while the girls perform the old show several times a day, seven days a week for sold-out audiences. As Decouflé attempts to introduce new pieces into the review, he is challenged by the cabaret’s desire to protect the Crazy Horse’s traditions and the acts for which it’s become known. For his part, Decouflé suggests that new and exciting routines must be introduced if the Crazy Horse wants to continue to be modern and fresh.
Crazy Horse (Désir) is a mad rush from beginning to end as each member of the Crazy Horse team attempts to piece together the new revue, with the only interludes of calm coming from the live performances themselves. The debut of the new performance, Désir , is postponed over and over again due to hilarious, but very real problems, such as having to re-choreograph entire routines because the girls are “prudes” who refuse to go near each other or having to re-sew the costumes because they don’t give the right shape to the buttocks.
Despite the provocative nature of the Crazy Horse show itself, this documentary manages to go beyond the simply voyeuristic and erotic. The film shows a side of this prestigious cabaret that few ever see; it gives a peek at the true chaos that lies beneath the façade of perfection on stage. Most importantly, the documentary allows the audience to witness the Crazy Horse staff’s indefatigable passion and enthusiasm for the art of burlesque. As complicated dance sequences go from rehearsal to live on stage, it becomes clear how talented these dancers are, maintaing the illusion of being beautiful and effortless while performing complicated and difficult routines with precision. The film opens up a dialogue about eroticism while celebrating all of the many forms it can take.
Director: Frederick Wiseman
Starring: Philippe Decouflé, Naamah Alva, Daizy Blu
Release Date: Jan. 18, 2012