Feu 3D: Misogynistic Stereoscopy

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Every once in a while it is possible to see something in your local movie-theatre that is so absurd and so out of context that you have no idea how it got there. For me, the previous such occasion was 3-D Sex and Zen: Extreme Ecstasy (2011) that, following huge box-office success in Hong Kong, made it to Wellington’s central multiplex. Its orgiastic sexual exploits set in the Ming Dynasty were barely threaded together by an incoherent plot and featured memorable moments such as a castrated penis flying through the auditorium towards the audience. Feu 3D (2013), a stereoscopic offering from the Parisian cabaret club Crazy Horse, is more coherent in its structure but offers a similarly bewildering display of sexualised body parts and unremitting nudity that would be better placed on an adult DVD. The film is a recreation of aspects of the stage show Feu and contains examples of Feu’s set numbers and conversations with the creator and dancers. Unlike Sex and Zen, it has not yet been given a general release but was instead brought to Wellington by the French Film Festival.

 

When my friend told a colleague, in jest, that we were going to see some 3D porn, he sneered slightly as he said ‘that’s not porn!’ His insinuation was that the burlesque nature of Crazy Horse’s stage acts would be tame in comparison to the hard-core acts of the current pornography industry. While Feu 3D does not contain any unsimulated sex or graphic sexual exploits, it is certainly pornographic. The film’s complete dehumanization of the female body into individual sexualised part and unrelenting emphasis on what the female dancers can do to pleasure the spectator is obscenity at its very purist.

 

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Between close-ups of pairs of legs topped by nothing more than g-string clad buttocks and tightly framed shots of always erect nipples, there are occasional words of wisdom from the fashion designer and director of Feu’s stage show, Christian Louboutin. Sitting fully clothed and by himself on a sofa, Louboutin first compares all women to exotic birds with no sense of irony. Later he praises the way the dancers at Crazy Horse are conditioned to fit a standardized mould; that they are displayed in such a way that their individuality is subordinate to the form created in the stage tableaus. A number of dances filmed within Feu 3D replicate this aspect, particularly when the women are put into wigs and make-up that makes it impossible to distinguish one from the other. The stereoscopic effects that emphasise the round, whole nature of the women’s body parts only increase the potential for these parts to be isolated as interchangeable objects of sexual fantasy with no relation to the women to whom they belong.

 

Christian Louboutin Presents 'Feu' At Le Crazy Horse - Showcase & Press Conference

 

Unlike, Louboutin, the girls are never allowed to talk to the camera. At the very most, they provide a disembodied voice-over to scenes of their bodies displayed in giant snowglobes. Although the tactile sensation produced by the snowflakes as they flutter towards the viewer in the auditorium is very engaging, it is hard to connect with the vapid looking woman placed, almost naked, within them. Throughout the film, there is no sense of the tease that operates in burlesque to allow the dancer control of her audience and there is very little chance to see the agency of the women who are filmed. Feu 3D makes it very clear that it, rather than the dancers, has chosen how to display their bodies.

 

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There are only a couple of moments that seem to break through this tendency. At one point five women are presented in an act called barcode. A white band of light scans their bodies up and down yet rather than conforming to the control of the light, they break free into radically different dance moves with uncontainable gestures. Nonetheless, towards the end of the act, they fall back into line and the band of light fixes them in place once again. At another point, their hands and arms appear over a black reflective surface. Although their limbs are disjointed from the rest of their body in a similar way to previous scenes, the doubling that occurs in the reflection means that their bodies become other and estranged in a way that is different from the fetishization that occurs throughout the rest of the film. There is just the slightest hint of radical subversion in this brief number.

 

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With regards to Louboutin’s insidious comments, the only element that undermines and destabilizes his opinions on the women he worked with is an element that is almost certainly erroneous: the subtitles. Feu 3D’s English language version has subtitles towards the bottom of the screen that seem to be have added on after completion of the stereoscopic effects. They always rest at zero parallax and, for this reason, often cut through the figure of Louboutin as he sits on the sofa. They make his image waver in and out of focus and the optical illusion inherent in 3D cinema is brought to the foreground. While it can be viewed as an unwelcome artefact in the otherwise smooth stereoscopic effects, it nicely subverts the importance of Louboutin and reminds us that the world of objectified women that he has created is only artifice.

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