when i saw david lachapelle on charlie rose he came off as a bit to enamored by his subjects. watching the documentary, though, it looks like he (consciously or not) did a decent job of presenting the good and the unrealistic elements of the people and the art form. for those not familiar – rize documents a dance movement in south los angeles which evolved from “clowning.”
you can look at this film in a few different ways. you can take their word for it and see it as a great outlet in an urban area that has few constructive ones. in this vein you can choose to accept the artform as just as valid as tap or swing or whatever. you can also view it, as most of them do, as a wholly original artform that gets them in touch with their spirit. you can also view it as a natural progression. in the film’s most interesting sequence, lachapelle intercuts archived footage of tribal dancing with the “krump” dancing done by some of the subjects.
to me it’s more of a natural progression, somewhat original, but expected. it’s more extreme and faster than previous dance styles, but that matches the contemporary music and culture. nothing is wholly original, and this is especially clear when you see the tribal footage cross-cut with the krumping. it’s sad to see that the ideals of the group are inevitably smashed by reality about half way through the film. there’s a big dance competition in which the clowns go up against the krumpers. the clowns win and the krumpers either feel cheated or as though the world just isn’t ready for their advanced style yet. it’s pretty typical bullshit and that’s unfortunate since the artform seemed to hold the potential to be bigger than such pettiness. at the end of the competition tommy the clown (who is the godfather of clowning) gets a call telling him that his home was robbed during the competition. it’s a sad commentary on the realities of the ghetto. here’s a guy who, despite his failings, is at least trying to do something positive for his community and someone takes advantage of that by robbing him. pretty fucked up.
i don’t see the artform as particularly interesting, beautiful or groundbreaking. i do see it as a valid artform and i do think it’s a relatively positive outlet. one of the more ridiculous scenes comes when one of the performers talks about how some people think it’s inappropriate to have their young daughters doing some of the dance moves. he says that it’s not like they’re doing anything sexual and it’s not like they’re dancing with anyone. the second part is true – a lot of the dancing is remarkably solo, but the first part is pretty silly. firstly, they call it “the stripper dance” because of the way they move their ass. lachapelle, to his credit, sees the absurdity of this subject’s statement and intercuts a young girl (8, maybe?) doing the stripper dance. she’s lifting up her shirt, shaking her ass, etc. she might not know it’s sexual, and in the context of an 8 year old doing it, it’s not sexual. but the 8 year old is just emulating older girls who are doing the same thing, and they’re doing it with enough knowledge to know that these movements are sexual. you get the point. really, though, this is to be expected. you have a lot of young people doing something they feel strongly about and they’re of varying degrees of intelligence with varying degrees of education. so you’re bound to get statements ranging from the absurd to the thoughtful. it’s all here and it’s all a part of the complex meshwork that is the artform. there isn’t a consensus on what it is, what it means, where it comes from, what its potential is, etc. but that’s how every artform is – be it opera, film or pottery.
the photography wasn’t as good as i expected given the cover artwork and lachapelle’s background as a supposedly influential photographer. there’s one sequence in the la river that is very artsy, but that’s about it.