Friday, July 15, 2005


Rize (Director: David LaChapelle)

LaChapelle has done other dance-oriented documentaries including Krumped and Clowns in the Hood. This basically combines those two areas (krumping and clowning) of dancing.

This documentary follows the dance movements in L.A., one is clowning--where "Tommy the Clown" is covered as the father of the gyrating, sick dance moves, complete with face paint. Then there's krumping, which is a descendant of the clowning but carries some sort of haughty attitude towards it. Although, clearly, clowners think of krumpers as retarded, as demonstrated in one scene.

LaChapelle was introduced to krumping when he directed the Christina Aguilera "Dirrty" video. These dances are an amazing feat of joint and muscle power, as you can clearly tell from all of the dancers' sculpted bodies, with nary a hint of actual working out with weights. It's pure exercise, and you see these people shake virtually everything, with body parts having a mind of their own. The whole point of the doc is to show that these people do this instead of joining gangs. It's their anti-drug. Ah, but life is still hard. People still get shot and robbed. But there's an anger getting put to work in the movements that these men and women (boys and girls) get worked out in a healthy way--suggesting a primal return to African roots. It's about fighting oppression, and the movie's early look at the 60's Watts Riots and 90's Rodney King Riots show that the birth of this dance comes from getting beaten down, and "rising" up.

There are a couple of things missing in this documentary. Like, I'd like to hear a sort of explanation as to how these dances get cooked up. One guy says, "The dance evolves every day. If I see somebody who hasn't danced for a couple of days come back into a show, we can tell when they're behind. We tell them just to go home." Frankly, I never understood much difference between clowning and krumping, and during the BattleZone competition in which clowners and krumpers face off, I had a very hard time figuring out who was doing what, even though they were amazing. It's no different than poorly filmed action scenes, where people and a sense of place are lost.

The doc also gets lost in itself for awhile, loses pacing, seems unfocused, and doesn't really pick a true center of the story. Tommy the Clown is introduced as the guy who helps kids get their heads straight, but so are some other father figures, and then the movie just becomes a series of talking heads intercut with more dancing, more talk about how hard life is, and so on, until it just becomes repetitive. It's a unique perspective and subject matter, but it's not the best of reality entertainment--even those need a beginning, middle, and an end.


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