Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Crazy Horse

Frederick Wiseman’s Crazy Horse, currently playing at Film Forum,
is numbing. If one of Wiseman’s objectives was to make a film about a burlesque house that is totally devoid of sexuality then he has succeeded. And if numbing is the intention then perhaps Wiseman’s next film should be Dentist in which he uses his signature naturalistic method (he uses no voice overs or other forms of commentary in his documentaries) to follow patients walking into the dentist’s office to receive shots of novocaine. Both dentistry and stripping partake of art and commerce. Dentistry is a business, but its aim is also beautiful teeth and burlesque is putatively about beauty too. If there is any dramatic tension in Crazy Horse, it lies between the desire of the Crazy Horse’s choreographer, Philippe, to create imaginative works and the need of the management to make money. Tensions arise when art gets in the way of commerce and some of the best scenes of the film center around the commodification of pleasure, from the lines of champagne bottles to the assembly line approach to the girls epitomized in the film’s audition sequence. In Crazy Horse Wiseman is returning to the subject of dance, which he dealt with in an earlier film on the Paris ballet, and while both films remain faithful to their creator’s credo—which is to keep the camera in observing as opposed to editorializing status—both miss the grand scope of his early films which dealt with things like mental institutions (Titicut Follies), the police (Law and Order) and hospitals (Hospital). Marshall McLuhan famously said the medium is the message, but the documentary form can induce atavistic urges in the filmgoer--like the desire to see meaningful subject matter addressed.


  1. Hi Francis,

    Wasn't it Marshall McLuhan, not Buckminster Fuller, who said that?

  2. You are absolutely right and I made the change. Thanks!


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.