“The reviewing of the show brings back my eternal request: Please, let’s try to close for some time.” As choreographer Philippe Decouflé pleads for more rehearsal time, the camera in Frederick Wiseman’s 39th documentary picks up a series of faces, people seated around a table to discuss what to do with the latest show at famed Parisian cabaret club Crazy Horse. No one looks happy as Decouflé receives his answer from the managing director: “I’m sorry, the answer is no.” And so the film sets up the essential problem facing Decouflé.
Stripping at Crazy Horse is a business, no matter the exclamations by the cast and crew that what they’re doing is art. And like Wiseman’s other films — most recently, La Danse and Boxing Gym — this one is about the work that goes into such business. The camera keeps focused on labor: meetings, table set-ups, rehearsals, costume fittings. Sometimes you see women dancing, their bodies exposed, the lighting dramatic, their movements calculated. “They can transform themselves; beauty counts less than what you do with it,” the artistic director explains to a reporter. “My motto is: There are no ugly women.” Then Wiseman’s camera cuts to the woman taping the interview. She nods, though you can’t tell whether she’s agreeing with the subject or appreciating her own work. He looks fine in frame.