So – a couple weeks ago I ran into a gal I briefly dated, and she asked me to go see Crazy Horse with her.
I was initially reluctant – while I really like her, there were some pretty compelling reasons why I stopped dating her. But she said she would have felt very uncomfortable going to see the movie alone, and chivalry being hard-wired into my character I agreed to go.
Upon reflection I was glad I did; the audience contained a number of the Sundance equivalent of the Red Letter News raincoat crowd. I wouldn’t have wanted her to be there alone, especially walking to her car afterwards. A shitty thing to have to say about Hilldale, let alone the world – but, as my pal Ducatista has said on here before, that’s just the way shit goes.
The movie? It was…something.
I have a long-standing intellectual interest in questions of artistic freedom versus conventional morality. In my own trajectory as an ‘artist’ (and if Thomas Kinkade could call himself that, then Baal knows I should be able to) I’ve frequently found myself at this intersection (most notably the time I was on TV and compared Alan Greenspan to the Pope, to my Catholic host’s obvious displeasure). But I was also raised in the church, and thus had the inevitable bodily ‘modesty’ drilled into me from an early age. So while I like to style myself as ‘free thinking’ and ‘sex-positive’ (and Jah knows I like to get my freak on), I’m not so self-unaware to not acknowledge that when it comes to things like stripping, prostitution, pornography, etcetera, I’m a bit of a prude. I’m not necessarily against such things per se; it’s just not my bag.
That having been said, I do think that there is such a thing as erotica – as distinct from pornography. But the cleavage line (pun intended) is less distinct.
Which is where I found myself afterwards, thinking about Crazy Horse. I do think that the Crazy Horse is a purveyor of erotica and not pornography. But I also think that some of the same exploitative, essentially instrumental notion of human relations is in play there as you would find in, say, Hustler.
Taken sheerly as a film, it’s breathtaking. The decision to shoot it on digital video was, I think, absolutely the right aesthetic strategy; it gives the images a cool, hyper-vivid quality that’s the film equivalent of a Nagel print – entirely appropriate for the highly artificial notion of ‘classy’ erotica that the Crazy Horse has positioned as its brand. And there a few sequences – notably, a sea of abstracted, naked asses rising and falling with an eerie, tidal grace – that are absolutely stunning. It doesn’t hurt that the dancers are fantastic; I mean, simply watching a bunch of beautiful, frequently naked women is, admittedly, a pleasure in itself, but when the same women are capable of imbuing their every movement with a passionate intelligence and devastating erotic charge, the experience becomes almost overwhelming.
And yet – there’s a sequence where the technical director is recording a number of the dancers singing a song that (I gathered) he wrote himself that would be used in the upcoming performance. The women sing the song with a saucy, careless tonelessness that is clearly intended to be provocative, but the lyics are a stunted adolescent’s notion of ‘high-class’ sexiness – it’s beneath them. Later the same guy is being interviewed, and he gushes on about how ‘Crazy Horse incarnates the pinnacle of female beauty and sensuality.’
To which I could only think – bullshit. Being a top-shelf commodity is to still be a commodity.
Not that you shouldn’t go see it. Just take it with a grain or two of salt.