CRAZY HORSE is focused entirely on the inner workings of the redoubtable and long-running Paris burlesque club Crazy Horse, described on its website as "the most avant-garde cabaret in Paris." It seems like the type of place where you might get slapped if you call a girl a "stripper"—these are dancers, thankyouverymuch, and their routines feature cutting-edge lighting technology and shows that marry eroticism with artistic ambition (i.e., they're super-classy strippers). It's only appropriate to the club's highbrow ambitions that director Frederick Wiseman's documentary about the club focuses on craft and tradition over personality-driven backstage drama.
As with his 2009 documentary La Danse, which took a behind-the-scenes look at the Paris Opera Ballet, director Wiseman displays a relentless curiosity about the laborious, unglamorous process by which a bunch of human bodies are coaxed into creating something beautiful. In addition to plenty of performance footage—which, stripped of its live context, scans a bit like very pretentious porn—this translates to considerable time observing the rehearsal process, as well as the political and budgetary concerns of the club's management. If these girls are first and foremost dancers, then Crazy Horse is best thought of as a look at a dance company that just happens to be naked most of the time. (To be fair, it does feature some of the nicest butts you'll ever see, as well as some strikingly homogenous breasts—the club's girls are hired, in part, for body uniformity.)
In my favorite scene, a bunch of dancers gather around a TV, laughing uproariously as they watch a blooper reel of ballerinas falling down. Crazy Horse could've benefited from a few more scenes like that, and a few less of girls dancing around with weird lights projected on their bodies—but as an eye candy-heavy document of a rarified artistic process, it works just fine.