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Monday, January 26, 2015 |  Madison, WI: 24.0° F  Light Snow Fog/Mist
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Crazy Horse takes a backstage look at a Paris cabaret
In the flesh
A Parisian reverence for all things female.
A Parisian reverence for all things female.

Unlike most of the "gentlemen's clubs" in the U.S. (not that I've been to that many, but still...), Paris' famed Crazy Horse saloon has been an ongoing erotic attraction for tourists and locals alike since 1951. The place has been a rich and endlessly creative bastion of pure French showmanship, and it harbors a deep, Parisian reverence for all things female. It is the very definition of cherchez la femme. If you're looking for women, the Crazy Horse, with its highbrow blend of exacting choreography, music and impeccable lighting, is the venue to take in. It's like Cirque du Soleil minus the Vegas riffraff.

With Crazy Horse, Frederick Wiseman, arguably one our greatest living documentarians, and his director of photography, John Davey, dive deep into the perfectly sculpted, infinitely chic sensuality of the place. Far from being the Parisian equivalent of the many North American venues that have appropriated the moniker, the Crazy Horse, as seen through Wiseman's lens, offers a sublime and nuanced blend of classy, old-school showmanship. Really, it's reminiscent of All That Jazz with a tastefully florid streak.

There seems to be much work and very little play going on during the Crazy Horse's off hours. It's then that the performers are put through their rigorous paces, the inner life of the venue ticking away in splendid, clockwork precision. The lithe young dancers are of a particular type, mostly small-breasted and shorthaired.

Crazy Horse could have used some judicious editing, but it provides a revealing look at an institution both familiar and utterly alien.

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