‘Truth or Dare’ Turns 25, But of Course Madonna Is Timeless

Truth or Dare, the documentary time capsule of Madonna’s iconic “Blonde Ambition” tour, just turned 25 years old. To celebrate, Metrograph, New York’s newest arthouse theater, is showing a weeklong run of the documentary in addition to a selection of seven films starring the singer in performances that range from strong and memorable to ridiculous.

Not all of the films are critically acclaimed—the erotic thriller Body of Evidence (1993), which features Madonna saying, “That’s what I do. I fuck,” in a moment of pure, obvious bad girl exposition is playing for the so-bad-it’s-good crowd. Who’s That Girl (1987) has Madonna doing a Judy Holliday voice and acting alongside a wildcat, which could be amazing if the zany plot wasn’t quite so thin and pointless.

The ultimate Madonna-as-actress film, of course, is her debut Desperately Seeking Susan (1985) in which she essentially plays herself: a downtown queen of jumbled accessories and sass who enchants all around her. In Dick Tracy (1990) she embodies the comic book femme fatale to an extent that would be eye roll-inducing were her provocateur status as a performer not already firmly in place. In the next two years, she’d have a small part in an atypical Woody Allen film (Shadows and Fog) and play a 1940s baseball player (A League of Their Own). While she’s been accused of not being the world’s greatest actress, the films selected here show that she can always cleverly play with her oversized persona, either reveling in its charms or choosing roles that seem like novel departures. Abel Ferrara’s gritty Dangerous Game (1993) makes for an interesting meta-commentary here, as Madonna plays an actress in a film about the making of a film, and we see her alternatively seductive and enraged, never quite sure who she really is. There aren’t many other pop stars who would immerse themselves in a world created by the director of Bad Lieutenant, for better and for worse. But for those who really want to see Madonna at the height of her powers and find some key to understanding her as a performer, Truth or Dare is the place to start.

Madonna as Breathless Mahoney in Dick Tracy.
“She was probably the most famous woman in the world at that point and the fact that she decided to allow the cameras to film her at that moment was a really fortuitous turn of events,” director and frequent Madonna collaborator Alek Keshishian told the Observer. Fortuitous not only for the director, but also for audiences both then and now: the documentary is revealing, finding moments of both extreme glamour and poignancy. We see Madonna not only performing onstage, as fierce and unapologetically sexual as we’d expect, but also catching up with a childhood friend, eating soup while talking on the phone with her father, and even visiting her mother’s grave.

Surprisingly, the film never feels forced or self-serious. It has moments of humor and a dynamic aesthetic, largely black and white with the concert sequences in lush color. There were practical as well as aesthetic reasons for shooting this way—as Keshishian recalls, “It seemed like an interesting division: the color for the artifice of the performance versus the reality of documentary, and yet each reflected the other. There was another practical consideration for the black and white, which was that the venues themselves were so ugly. Dressing rooms aren’t the prettiest places and black and white gives a kind of poetry. It also allowed me to use footage from different days since a lot of the venues looked the same.” The color choice also contributes to the iconography, giving the proceedings a feeling of being somehow out of time.
Many music documentaries rely on a workmanlike aesthetic that hides a directorial mark, but Keshishian knew from the start that he wanted to create something different. Truth or Dare was initially going to be more of a traditional concert film for HBO, but quickly moved in another direction. “I rented almost everything that had been done in the music documentary and concert arena, and then I decided not to watch any of them,” he said. “I didn’t want to be influenced, nor did I want to consciously avoid trying to do something. Sometimes it’s better not to know the rules.”

Going into the documentary without that “anxiety of influence,” worked well for the director, and part of what’s captivating about Truth or Dare, besides its highly charismatic subject, is the way we can see the seams—cameras and boom mikes are sometimes visible, and Madonna even refers to the director by name: “I had no incentive to try to hide the camera, though I certainly didn’t want to become the subject,” said Keshishian.

The subject reveals much of herself: one of the most striking motifs is the maternal bond she has with her dancers, all of whom are sassy, charming characters. The film strikes a fine balance between these moments of the maternal, good-humored Madonna and the diva. One of the most famous scenes has Madonna expressing ostentatious disdain after Kevin Costner calls her concert “neat.” Keshishian didn’t want to sensationalize: “I only used those moments because I thought they said something about Madonna. It shows she doesn’t do well with that kind of earnestness. You just see her with celebrities when they’re revealing something about her.” She has her own moments of vulnerability, and her admission that going home isn’t easy, say, is all the more striking after seeing her in her iconic cone bra, executing racy dance moves for a crowd of thousands. Balance is key to Truth or Dare—you can even see it in the title, which would fit even without the amusing scene in which she and her dancers play the game. Keshishian balanced the truth of the “real Madonna” with the daring of the performer quite purposefully: “The way the documentary ended up, I think if we removed even 10 minutes the balance would change significantly.”

Desperately Seeking Susan.

There isn’t a sense of bloated indulgence, nor is the narrative too thin, and there’s plenty more where all of the juicy, aesthetically pleasing footage came from. “We shot 250 hours,” the director recalls. “The movie ended up being two hours, and we edited it to get a complete portrait without it being redundant.”

These two hours create an eloquent document of a great performer, but one wonders what an extended cut might look like. At one point, Madonna’s then-boyfriend and director/star of Dick Tracy, Warren Beatty, remarks, “She doesn’t want to live off camera.” Watching Truth or Dare and the other films in the Metrograph series, we understand why she wouldn’t. Performing onstage, in one of her varied film roles, or just being herself, Madonna consistently captivates.

More at Observer.com

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New in Filmography: Madonna’s documentary ‘I Am Because We Are’ – watch the film, view memorabilia and more!

Next in Madonna’s Filmography is the documentary ‘I Am Because We Are’, written and produced by her. It showed the efforts the charitable organisation Raising Malawi made in helping to improve the lives and conditions. The documentary made its Dutch debut at the IDFA in 2008.

To view the entire film, see an interview and memorabilia visit I Am Because We Are now

  • Watch the entire documentary
  • See Madonna’s original introduction
  • See a detailed interview with Madonna on the documentary
  • View various memorabilia items
  • see the trailer
  • buy the film

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New York Today: Madonna’s Metropolis

Updated, 7:58 a.m.

Good morning on this moody Friday.

It’s a summer Friday. One of the last. So today we bring you a column on the lighter side.

In honor of the 25th anniversary of the Madonna documentary “Truth or Dare,” the Metrograph theater in Chinatown is running a retrospective of the performer’s film career, beginning on Saturday.

New York wasn’t easy for Madonna Louise Ciccone, according to J. Randy Taraborrelli, the author of “Madonna: An Intimate Biography.”

“It gave her the kind of draining experience that creates great artists,” he said. “She’s a product of the New York experience.”

We decided to take a tour of the Queen of Pop’s New York:

• We started in our apartment, in front of the iPad, and watched the city age alongside the singer in her videos for “Papa Don’t Preach” and “Secret.”

• Then we headed to Times Square, where, as legend has it, she arrived in 1978 with $35 in her pocket. She ate garbage out of trash cans. (We fact-checked: “Probably all mythology,” Mr. Taraborrelli said.)

• Madge’s first apartment, at 232 E. Fourth Street in the East Village, was “a roach motel,” according to her father. (No, we didn’t go there.)

Continue reading the main story

• She worked at a Dunkin’ Donuts on West 57th Street and at the Russian Tea Room, where she had a job in coat check and was fired, we were told. (We skipped the doughnut shop.)

• We read an essay in Harper’s Bazaar, in which she wrote that moving to the city was harsh at first. But like any proud New Yorker, she learned to love it:

“The sizzling-hot sidewalks and the noise of the traffic and the electricity of the people rushing by me on the streets was a shock to my neurotransmitters.”

“Blood pumping through my veins, I was poised for survival. I felt alive.”

More at NYTimes

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Why Madonna’s ‘Truth Or Dare’ Continues To Inspire & Influence Audiences 25 Years Later

In an age where social media, reality TV shows, and music documentary movies feel ubiquitous in providing fans with intimate access to their idols, it’s easy to forget that celebrity personas were previously much more private. So when Madonna’s Truth Or Dare documentary movie (also known as In Bed With Madonna) was released in 1991, it felt truly revolutionary and fresh. Once upon a time, fans only had interviews, newspaper gossip, and magazine profiles to rely on in gaining insight on their favorite stars, and often these impressions still felt stilted, and pre-programmed. But, chroniclingMadonna’s seminal Blond Ambition tour, the movie provided an intimate glimpse at the pop star and her life. The movie pulled back the curtain of celebrity to reveal both Madonna, the artist, and Madonna Louise Ciccone, the person.

25 years on from the movie’s release, which saw it gaining a cult-status amongst fans and the queer community, the film remains deeply inspiring, and its legacy can be felt right across pop culture. The movie managed to make an impact, not just in transgressing the boundaries between a celebrity and their fans, but also in providing a crucial reminder of how pop music, and feminist and queer rights, have developed since the early ’90s.

In 1990, when Truth Or Dare was filmed, the Blond Ambition tour was deeply controversial. Not only did the tour feature a scene of simulated female masturbation within a dance routine, but it also juxtaposed highly sexual choreography with Catholic imagery. By the time the tour reached Italy, the performance had become a scandal within the press, with the Pope even trying to get it banned. Two shows were cancelled among the tumult, andMadonna was even threatened with arrest in Toronto when law enforcement objected to the content of her dance routine for “Like A Virgin.”

This seems rightfully shocking to us in 2016, particularly when we have artists like Nicki Minaj, Lady Gaga, and the electro-pop artist Peaches using hyper-sexual imagery and choreography within their live shows and music videos. But, at the start of the ’90s, it was still deemed deeply inappropriate, criminaleven, for a female musician to proudly own her sexuality and to portray an expression of it on stage or in their videos.

via GIPHY

Read full article at Bustle.com

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Madonna Surprises 400 Fans at 25th Anniversary Screening of Madonna: Truth or Dare in N.Y.C.

Madonna: Truth or Dare turns 25!

Madonna surprised 400 unsuspecting fans that were in attendance at the anniversary screening of Madonna: Truth or Dare at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City on Wednesday.

“She came out to support Alek Keshishian, her longtime friend and director of the celebrated documentary,” a source tells PEOPLE.
Dressed in a red off-the-shoulder dress, Madge appeared to be all smiles as she interacted with her fans.

Madonna: Truth or Dare was originally released in May 1991 and followed Madonna’s successful 57-show Blond Ambition World Tour across the globe.

August has been a month of celebration for the superstar.
Madonna recently returned from a birthday trip to Cuba with her children, including estranged son Rocco. The mother of four turned 58 on Aug. 16.

Reporting by JEFF NELSON

People

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New in Filmography: Madonna makes her debut as director in ‘Filth and Wisdom’

Next in our Filmography is Madonna’s debut as a director in ‘Filth and Wisdom’, the small movie with a lot of references to Madonna wasn’t a big hit. However she did present the film at the Berlinale Film Festival and it gave her the experience she needed for her next directing job (W.E.).

Read all about Filth and Wisdom:

  • Press and memorabilia
  • Trailers
  • Various videos (interviews with M, premiere night videos)

Enjoy

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GEARHOUSE KEEPS REBEL HEART PUMPING FOR MADONNA TOUR press release (on Rebel Heart Tour DVD recording)

Full production and OB facilities provided for live tour stops in Sydney

Watford, UK, 4 August 2016 – Following its success implementing facilities for a recent live Taylor Swift concert, Gearhouse Broadcast has been selected by York Studios in Melbourne to provide live music and OB production facilities for Madonna’s Rebel Heart tour concert at Sydney’s Qudos Bank Arena.

Gearhouse Broadcast’s sales director Manny Papas explained, “Stuart Gosling at York Studios in Melbourne contacted us after he saw what we’d produced for Taylor Swift and wanted the same high level of production.”

With facilities similar to the Taylor Swift event, the Rebel Heart tour production consisted of a mix of six Sony PMW-F55 large sensor cameras. Which were used for close up and stage shots while six broadcast cameras with box lenses were installed for longer coverage. “The industry talked after the Taylor Swift gig and it was clear Gearhouse was the go-to company for live music concert OBs,” said York Studios EP, Stuart Gosling.

“These gigs are now a very big deal as the finished product is recorded, packaged and sold worldwide so the quality of the production has to be incredibly high. I’m very happy to say Gearhouse delivered on all fronts.” Gearhouse employed the same HD6 “Entertainment” supertruck that was previously implemented used on the Taylor Swift event as its production centrepiece. This time it housed Madonna’s creative team, the line cut, CCUs, three XT3 8-channel EVS live production servers and audio multi-track recording.

This was alongside the six PMW-F55 cameras with Fujinon 19-90mm Cabrio zoom lenses, six broadcast cameras with box lenses, a SpiderCam installed with a Sony P1 and wide angle lens, two Libre Hot Heads also with F55s and a 32 foot techno crane. Papas added, “The HD6 Entertainment supertruck is a vehicle specifically designed to handle large live concert gigs like this one. We also had to put film cameramen with focus pullers alongside broadcast guys which worked extremely well across both Saturday and Sunday shoots.

The Rebel Hearts production was even more refined than previously as we were able to offer more options for how the SpiderCam and Libre Hot Heads were used.” Gearhouse recorded the gig in 1080i/PsF 29.97 and ISO recorded every camera to EVS servers and hard drives. York Studios EP Stuart Gosling concluded, “We were delighted with the end result. Witnessing Gearhouse’s production experience and quality of output it was clear to see they knew exactly what they were doing and how everything worked. It really was an excellent job.”

Picture credit Gearhouse Broadcast at the Madonna Rebel heart concert in Sydney

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Twentyfive years after Madonna: Truth or Dare

Twenty-five years after Madonna: Truth or Dare‘s original theatrical run, its ostensible subject—Madonna’s worldwide Blond Ambition tour—is now one of its least interesting aspects. It was easy to recognize the tour, which premiered during the waning days of Tipper Gore’s war against the music industry, as a deliberate provocation, a salacious mix of Catholic imagery and overt sexuality, with a few Art Deco trimmings thrown in for good measure. Outfitted for much of the show in an iconic cone-bra corset designed by Jean Paul Gaultier, Madonna blared a commanding sexual power from the stage, performing muscular choreography that included crotch-grabbing, erotic flexions on her scantily clad male dancers, and, in the show’s most controversial moment, simulated masturbation. The idea of a female artist performing such defiantly sexual material proved so threatening to local authorities in Toronto and Rome that they threatened to shut down the show.

If the concert may not seem shocking to contemporary audiences used to strong, unapologetically sexual female performers, that’s because Madonna paved the way for so many singers interested in embracing their sexuality through their music. Still novel, though, is the sheer ambition and syncretic aesthetic of the tour, which drew its inspiration from Metropolis, hip-hop, S&M, and A Clockwork Orange, among other sources. In the context of the film, these performance excerpts, shot in richly hued color 35mm, exist not just for their own sake, but operate in dialogue with the film’s backstage scenes.

In essence, Truth or Dare is less of a concert film than an elaborately constructed exegesis on pop mythmaking and the construction of identity. One part of Madonna’s genius has consistently been the creation (and reinvention) of her persona. Rather than purporting to give an unvarnished look at the woman beneath the bustier, the Alek Keshishian film calls into question the very idea of a consistent identity. Filmed in high-contrast black-and-white 16mm, the backstage scenes intentionally evoke the vérité style of D.A. Pennebaker’s Bob Dylan documentary Don’t Look Back, but here the aesthetic is an ironic appropriation of the idea of observational cinema.

Truth or Dare is less of a concert film than an elaborately constructed exegesis on pop mythmaking.

Madonna’s decision to allow cameras to follow her around constantly during her tour wasn’t about capturing some unguarded moments, but rather the opposite. The camera offers an omnipresent excuse for performance, an opportunity to turn every interaction, no matter how dull or personal, into a work of art. As Warren Beatty, Madonna’s then-boyfriend, at one point famously observes: “She doesn’t want to live off camera, much less talk. There’s nothing to say off camera. Why would you say something if it’s off camera? What point is there existing?” Even in ostensibly private moments, Madonna cleverly plays to the camera, switching between a handful of personae, each incarnation amplified by hair, makeup, and costume: Marilyn Monroe for coquettish charm; Marie Antoinette for an air of luxurious decadence; brassy, streetwise Italian girl to suggest her roots.

Truth or Dare offers some particularly succulent red meat for Freudians, including Madonna’s patronizing descriptions of herself as the “mother” to her dance crew. Twenty-five years on, the film offers the opportunity to re-enter an emerging intellectual milieu, one that emphasized the centrality of performance to our identities, particularly our expressions of gender. Released a year after Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble and Camille Paglia’sSexual Personae, True or Dare is marinated in many of the same ideas surrounding gender, power, sexuality, and performance. (Paglia, who recognized in Madonna a fellow provocateur, even lauded her as “the future of feminism” in the pages of The New York Times.)

Truth or Dare aligns these ideas with a focus on gay rights. This film may very well have been the first time many straight Madonna fans saw two men kissing. At one point, several of her dancers attend a gay pride parade in New York City, which is interspersed with footage of Oliver Crumes, the only straight male dancer in Madonna’s troupe, expressing his discomfort around gay men. The scene recognizes the ubiquity of homophobia while simultaneously centering the fight against it. And in one of the film’s most poignant moments, Madonna tears up as she delivers a pre-show prayer in honor of Keith Haring, who died of AIDS in 1990. The singer appears caught in a rare candid moment, choking up over the untimely death of a friend, but the strength of the film’s detailed attention to the performative aspects of identity is such that one wonders if even this moment of seemingly unvarnished emotion is just another act. As Paglia wrote, “Madonna says we are nothing but masks.”

More at SlantMagazine

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Justifying Our Love: 25 Years Later, the Madonna Doc Still Delights — And Confounds

Justifying Our Love: 25 Years Later, the Madonna Doc Still Delights — And ConfoundsEXPAND

Photofest

Outliving Michael Jackson and Prince, Madonna is the sole survivor of the holy triad of pop superstars born in 1958. She turned fifty-eight last week; also celebrating a (milestone) birthday is Alek Keshishian’s immensely pleasurable vérité backstager/concert doc Madonna: Truth or Dare, now twenty-five years old. Reviewing the film in the May 14, 1991, issue of the Voice, J. Hoberman praised Truth or Dare as “a remarkable portrait of a sacred monster in her prime.” The description remains unassailable — and is now all the more poignant, considering Madonna’s diminished stature today. Though she is still active in a variety of fields and endures as one of the most famous people on the planet, she has, of course, been eclipsed by others in the past quarter-century; Queen Bey has for several years worn the crown that once sat atop the head of Her Madgeness. Nor has Madonna, an artist in the decadent phase of her career, been immune to the ignominious imperatives of portfolio-diversifying: She repurposed the name of Keshishian’s documentary for a “lifestyle brand” that she launched in 2011 specializing in handbags, footwear, and fragrance.

And yet for this Gen X critic, the experience of revisiting Truth or Dare — which I returned to repeatedly in theaters during the spring and summer of 1991 — for the first time since its initial release prompted a flood of memories about Madonna’s enormous influence on American culture, and, by extension, on my life: Nearly every conversation (public or private), academic essay, and broadsheet op-ed about race, gender, and/or sexuality from roughly the mid-Eighties through the mid-Nineties inevitably involved the Material Girl. During these peak years of postmodernism, Madonna, unparalleled provocatrice and recycler of high and low iconography, operated, per Hoberman, “as a sign system” unto herself. She was excoriated by bell hooks in her 1992 book Black Looks: Race and Representation for her cannibalizing of African-American culture and lauded in 1990 by Camille Paglia in the New York Times as “the future of feminism.”

At the D.C. law firm where I had a miserable entry-level job, Madonna’s ’92 coffee-table book Sex was passed around like smutty samizdat among the senior partners, paralegals, and support staff; among my co-workers, she was either dismissed by the uptight and obtuse as narcissistic or looked to, primarily by secretaries living in the suburbs, as a model of aspirational bedroom practices. For a not-quite-out teen and young adult, as I was then, Madonna’s role as sapphic signifier — whether covert (as the object of Rosanna Arquette’s fascination in Susan Seidelman’s Desperately Seeking Susan from 1985; whatever she was up to with Sandra Bernhard on David Letterman’s show in 1988) or overt (evidenced in the infamous Steven Meisel photos that ran inRolling Stone shortly after Truth or Dare’s release; several tableaux in Sex) — functioned as both lure and repellent.

The Madonna captured in Truth or Dare is all and none of these things, a tiny, hard body bearing the weight of the symbols and symbolism ascribed to her (by herself, by others, by me), personas that she shrewdly dons or sheds at will. Keshishian’s documentary tracks Madonna in several different cities around the globe during her 1990 “Blond Ambition” tour, her third, mounted in support of her albums Like a Prayer and I’m Breathless, the soundtrack to Dick Tracy. (The 1990 Warren Beatty–directed project is one of seven titles showcasing the singer’s thespian skills — and limitations — that will screen in “Body of Work: A Madonna Retrospective,” which runs concurrently with Metrograph’s revival ofTruth or Dare. Beatty, Madonna’s romantic partner during the “Blond Ambition” tour, smugly skulks in the background in Keshishian’s film, the old guy getting his comeuppance when his girlfriend demands, “Get over here, you pussy.”)

In dressing rooms, hotel suites, and ladies’ lavatories, among other intimate locations, Madonna and her crew are filmed in black-and-white 16mm; onstage, their pulse-quickening numbers (“Express Yourself,” “Like a Virgin,” “Holiday,” and others) are rendered in effulgent, almost garish, color. Madonna is a machine; an ever-yammering, saucy mouth; and, most queasily, a “mother,” a self-designated role she remarks on several times in voiceover (and for which she was especially rebuked in hooks’s essay). “I think I’ve chosen people who are emotionally crippled or need mothering in some way,” says the superstar, who lost her own mom at age five — and whose Truth or Dare visit to Ma’s gravesite, scored to “Promise to Try,” reveals the singer’s talent for the unbearably maudlin.

Among those “cripples” are her seven backup dancers, mostly gay black and Latino men, all of whom, along with supporting singers Niki Haris and Donna De Lory, first reached wide visibility in Madonna’s “Vogue” video from 1990. (That septet is the focus of Strike a Pose, a doc that screened at Tribeca in April and that will open in theaters early next year.) Auditioning for the singer at a nightclub to land the “Blond Ambition” gig, two of the dancers, Luis Camacho and Jose Gutierez, were members of the House of Xtravaganza, one of the ballroom clans immortalized in Jennie Livingston’s documentary Paris Is Burning, released the same year as Truth or Dare, with which it forms a crucial diptych. Livingston’s film, like Keshishian’s, is an essential investigation of queerness, race, and stardom — as lived by those whom Madonna flagrantly cribbed from and who, in turn, have achieved a kind of immortality that may forever elude her.

Madonna: Truth or Dare
Directed by Alek Keshishian
Miramax
Opens August 26, Metrograph

VillageVoice

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A Q&A WITH ALEK KESHISHIAN, DIRECTOR OF GROUNDBREAKING MADONNA DOCUMENTARY TRUTH OR DARE

The legend of Madonna goes like this: She became a big star with “Like a Virgin,” a superstar with True Blue, a firebrand with Like a Prayer and the banned video for “Justify My Love,” and finally a Herculean sorceress of untouchable power on her 1990 Blonde Ambition Tour. That’s when her wildest cone bras came into play, not to mention a delirious masturbation act (set to a sinister new version of “Like a Virgin”) and a whole lot of vogueing. It was the rare moment when a pop star was both the biggest and boldest celebrity on the planet.

Thankfully director Alek Keshishian chronicled this commanding moment in Madonna’s career, the essential juncture when she graduated from pop hero to mythological wonder. In Keshishian’s 1991 movie Truth or Dare, which wowed critics and became the highest-grossing documentary ever released up to that time, he granted viewers backstage access to her vivacious stage spectacle, complete with thundering performances of “Express Yourself,” “Holiday,” and “Live to Tell.” Perhaps more importantly, he seemed to answer the essential fan question: Is Madonna really as rad as the wannabes wanted her to be? The answer — proven by her naughty repartee with her gay dancers, snark aimed at then-beau Warren Beatty, some infamous Evian bottle fellatio, an altercation with Toronto authorities, and even some snide remarks about contemporaries like Belinda Carlisle — was a resounding (and slightly fearful) yes.

It’s been 25 years since Keshishian’s film became a Bible for the most devout of Madonna disciples. The Metrograph theater in Manhattan will run seven straight nights of Truth or Dare screenings beginning August 26, when Keshishian will take part in a Q&A hosted by guest moderator Chelsea Handler.

We caught up with Keshishian, who also co-wrote Madonna’s 2011 directorial feature W.E., to discuss the movie’s tremendous impact, how gay fans reacted (and still react) to the film, and why you can’t hold him responsible for the rise of reality television.

Fore more visit Papermag

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BODY OF WORK: A MADONNA RETROSPECTIVE August 27 to September 1 New York – buy tickets

Iconoclast, provocateur, pop-priestess, showgirl, Madonna’s film roles are extensions of her self-perpetuating, highly-stylized brand: street savvy disco punk, comic book gangster’s moll, and insatiable femme fatale. She is the auteur of her singular oeuvre, both the Svengali and muse of her enigmatic persona. Her calculated, cohesive canon embodies a 20th Century Narcissus who elicits adoration and antipathy equally. Ultimately, the most captivating role she ever plays is Madonna. All titles will be paired with select Madonna music videos.

Body of Work: A Madonna Retrospective at the Metrograph in New York from August 27 to September 1

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Is Madonna’s acting really that bad? A career retrospective lets you be the judge (more on film festival)

As a pop star, Madonna is the undisputed queen. Her recent albums Rebel Heart and MDNA may have sold poorly, but she’s still the highest-grossing solo touring artist of all time. As an actor, however, most critics agree that Madonna has got some way to go before she makes it into the royal family. Or even, some would say, the servants’ quarters.

It’s not for want of trying. Back in 1979, four years before the release of her self-titled debut album, Madonna starred in barebones indie drama A Certain Sacrifice. She played a Lower East Side resident living with three “love slaves” (one male, one female, one transgender). Capitalising on her first flush of fame, the film-makers rushed it out in 1985, but it’s safe to say that it wasn’t exactly acclaimed as a lost classic.

Nonetheless, for years Madonna maintained an acting career alongside her musical one. Some of of her films performed decently at the box office and – shock horror – even got good reviews, like the 1985 comedy Desperately Seeking Susan. More frequently however, her efforts were widely ridiculed. Besides voicing a character in 2006’s family cartoon Arthur and the Invisibles and appearing opposite Lady Gaga on a Saturday Night Live skit, Madonna has laid her acting career to rest after enduring a weapons-grade trashing for her turn as a snooty socialite in then husband Guy Ritchie’s 2002 romance Swept Away.

It’s therefore little wonder that Swept Away isn’t included in Body of Work: A Madonna Retrospective, a season of films at New York’s Metrograph purporting to showcase Madonna’s “calculated, cohesive canon”. Together, the seven selections (Desperately Seeking Susan, Who’s That Girl, Dick Tracy, Shadows and Fog, A League of Their Own, Body of Evidence and Dangerous Game) prove that while she never threatened to become the next Meryl Streep, Madonna’s acting might not actually be that bad.

Her first major vehicle, Susan Seidelman’s Desperately Seeking Susan, makes the most of her megastar charisma. Released when she was in peak Like a Virgin mode, Madonna plays Susan, a free-spirited live wire whose identity gets usurped by a bored housewife (Rosanna Arquette). It capitalized on her edgy public persona; the role essentially required Madonna to be the same brassy pop starlet the world knew her as anyway. Susan’s ragtag-chic wardrobe meant that she barely even had to get changed.

Yes, she plays herself (in the non hip-hop sense) – but maybe that’s not as easy as she makes it look. Skating over 1986’s Shanghai Surprise, a notorious bomb in which Madonna played – of all things – a missionary, the season next alights on 1987’s Who’s That Girl. OK, the 1987 comedy from director James Foley (he’s helming the upcoming two sequels to Fifty Shades of Grey) is pretty awful, but Madonna emerges more or less intact. In her comfort zone as another street-smart girl, she’s effortlessly engaging, even as the convoluted hijinks can’t keep pace with her zany energy.

Madonna slowly gravitated to more mannered performances, beginning with Dick Tracy in 1990. As sultry club singer Breathless Mahoney, Madonna relied upon all the glamour from her Express Yourself era to conjure a textbook femme fatale: erotic (“I sweat a lot better in the dark,” she coos to Dick Tracy) and mysterious. Director Warren Beatty was wise to afford her a handful of original musical numbers, written by Stephen Sondheim, that proved she could sell a show tune with the best of them.

The following year, Shadows and Fog saw her collaborate with Woody Allen. While her role as a seductive tightrope walker in his sideshow murder-mystery only amounts to a cameo, Madonna holds her own opposite John Malkovich and a raging Mia Farrow, brashly delivering the line: “Nothing wakes Peter up, certainly not the sound of two people moaning.”

Madonna returned to the tough city broad type in Penny Marshall’s hit baseball comedy A League of Their Own (1992), bringing a ton of zest and a thick Westchesta accent to no-nonsense player Mae Mordabito. However, disaster was soon to strike. Uli Edel’s Body of Evidence (1993), part of a three-pronged sex fest that also included her Erotica album and softcore photobook Sex, is unadulterated trash with none of the sly wit of its inspiration, Basic Instinct.

Madonna is as flat as a cycling holiday in the low countries as Rebecca Carlson, a sex-crazed gold-digger with murderous tendencies, but the the film’s failure can’t be entirely laid at her door. Brad Mirman’s script is a true clunker. It’s hard to imagine any actor who has ever lived convincingly delivering lines such as: “Have you ever seen animals make love? It’s intense, it’s violent. But they never really hurt each other.”
Both Madonna’s performance and the film overall were lambasted by critics: Roger Ebert declared it as one of his most hated movies of all time. (“It has to be seen to be believed – something I do not advise,” he wrote.) But give the girl some credit – few celebrities would throw themselves into the sex scenes with the kind of gusto Madonna exhibits. The infamous scene in which she drips candlewax on a naked Willem Defoe is sexy because it’s done with such conviction. And hats and everything else off to the opening scene, in which she rides her supposed victim like a bull – stark naked.

 

In fact, Madonna is at her best in Body of Evidence when she’s relying upon her body language to do the job rather than the atrocious dialogue. She also gets slapped across the face by Julianne Moore in a bathroom – so there’s that.

She’s equally as unhinged – though clothed – in Dangerous Game, which came out the same year as Body of Evidence, though with considerably less fanfare. Directed by Abel Ferrara, Dangerous Game is inscrutable and defiantly messy, starring Harvey Keitel as a director shooting a marital-crisis drama as his own marriage implodes in real-life.

Madonna stars as Sarah Jennings, a Hollywood star forced to plumb new depths as one half of the warring couple in his film. Ferrara’s untamed approach suits Madonna, who is emotionally raw in ways she only hinted at in her climactic Dick Tracy scene, where Breathless Mahoney desperately pleads for Dick Tracy’s affection. Right through Dangerous Game, Madonna’s on edge, reacting viscerally to the abuse hurled her way. A scene where she’s left crawling on the floor after being raped by her onscreen partner is deeply unsettling.

The grueling experience of confronting her demons in such a public forum purportedly proved too much for Madonna, who according to Ferrara “killed” the film by badmouthing it. It’s a shame, because the film proves that although Madonna is frequently heralded as the mother of reinvention, it’s her ability to dig deep and connect emotionally with her audience which has made her records, if not her films, endure.

Curiously, the Metrograph has opted not to showcase Evita (1996), in which Madonna proved her many detractors wrong with a full-blooded star turn as Eva Perón. She even got a Golden Globe. However, there’s no surprise that the series ignores The Next Best Thing (2000), her misjudged pair-up with then pal Rupert Everett. Madonna was indulging in her fantasies of being part of the English aristocracy, and her Downton Abbey-style tones are grounds alone for the movie to be consigned to the trash can (or dustbin, as she would no doubt then have said).Swept Away was, if anything, even worse, a critical and commercial disaster which torpedoed her reputation as an actor once and for all.

The scorn probably accounts for why in 2008 she tried her luck at entering another door in Hollywood by directing the London-set comedy Filth and Wisdom, followed by WE, her romance detailing the affair King Edward VIII and American divorcee Wallis Simpson, in 2011. Unlike so many actors-turned-directors, Madonna opted never to star in her own features, probably fearful of how she’d be received. She needn’t be – Body of Work: A Madonna Retrospective shows that given the right material, Madonna could steal a scene for all the right reasons.

  • Body of Work: A Madonna Retrospective, runs 27 August to 1 September at The Metrograph in New York.

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Exclusive: More on new documentary ‘Emmy and the Breakfast Club’ by Guy Guido

6a00d8341c2ca253ef01bb092c0ca2970d-800wiWidely published in the media these past few days was the news that Madonna’s ‘bedroom’ tapes during her time with Dan Gilroy would be made available. As with most stories in the media, things have been blown out of proportion just to attract readers.

Guy Guido, who is a Madonna fan himself wants to show nothing but respect for Madonna, he states that it is very important that the fans understand that this is being done more authentically than anything they have ever seen and that it is being done with admiration for Madonna. If it wasn’t we wouldn’t be promoting it.

The film will include intimate notes and original recordings done by Madonna with Dan Gilroy (whom she dated at the time), so this is nothing but amazing news for every Madonna fan out there.

Jamie Auld who is portraying Madonna looks absolutely stunning and makes a remarkable resemblance to the early ‘Emmy’ Madonna (as seen in the promotional shots below). Matthew Rettenmund also wrote on this on his BoyCulture blog.

What’s important to know is that we will finally learn more on her days in ‘The Breakfast Club’ and hear some of the recordings she did with Dan Gilroy. Not only that but once again, Guido is a huge fan himself and it is all done with a huge amount of respect for her. No need to worry.

We will be updating you once more news becomes available.

All pictures posted with permission by Guy Guido

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