You're staring at the screen, hypnotized by gorgeous, bright geometric patterns swirling in front of you, with shiny hoops weaving in and out of the frame, reflecting the spotlight that shines on them. The dreamy revolving continues, lulling you into a sweet trance, until you realize you've just spent the last five minutes watching two butts spin in a circle. They're not just any butts--they're the derrieres of French dancers at the famous all nude club in Paris called the Crazy Horse.
So if the French invented sex, it also makes sense to say that the Crazy Horse turned stripping into a living, breathing erotic art show unparalleled by anything remotely psychedelic--even Godzilla vs. The Smog Monster. And basically, if you exist on the planet doing anything, you want it to be documented by director Frederick Wiseman. This man has filmed department stores during holiday seasons, boxing gyms, the legislature, ballet companies, courts and zoos, to name a few, extracting not a central opinion about what the camera sees, but rather its very essence. In short, this documentary is nothing short of spectacular, and in spite of its hands-off approach, teaches a lot.
1. Nothing can be titillating all the time. Wiseman makes sure to include meetings about rehearsal schedules, investors, and artistic disagreements between the eye candy. This proves that he perfectly understands the art of seduction--having to watch a costume designer's dissatisfaction with communication between teams serves as a tension-builder while you wait for the next juicy, visually stunning dance sequence. Seeing how boring things are behind the scenes only heightens the relief you feel when you're once again drinking in the wonder of a seemingly endless striptease starring only a pair of legs in profile.
2. Being naked is funny. There is a real sense of tongue-in-cheek naughty winks in every dance number at the Crazy Horse, layered upon the obvious sexiness of the act. The best act is the women dressed as X-rated British soldiers, with a close second being the act that only shows body parts undulating from below the stage, creating a rolling ocean-like wave of feet, legs, hands, and eventually bottoms. I felt like a dope when I realized how much I was chuckling like Butthead, until I realized everyone around me was doing it too.
3. Nature always balances itself out. No matter how hot these dancers are, it is a relief that they definitely cannot sing, as we learn while watching them record a song named after the establishment.
4. The human body is meant to be celebrated (most effectively with front projection and Esquivel music). Most of the acts take on a retro feel, with boldly colored lights and happy '60s-sounding instrumentals complete with whistling and people singing "doo doo doo." The feel of the entire event is completely girly, as it should be in an all-female nude review, and the sense of feminine playtime onstage is unlike anything I have seen. This resonated with me way more than any of the most beautiful paintings of ladies I have seen in a museum. There's just something about those doo doos.
Although Wiseman's approach left me wondering a great deal about the backstory of the dancers, and what kind of resolution the production came to on some of their business issues, it never overwhelmed the extraordinary beauty he transported from Paris into my movie theater. That alone is worth the price of admission.