AGORA
: Dragged from her chariot by a mob of fanatical vigilante Christian monks, the revered astronomer was stripped naked, skinned to her bones with sharp oyster shells, stoned and burned alive as possibly the first executed witch in history. A kind of purge that was apparently big business back then.


CRITICAL WOMEN HEADLINES

10/19/07

Go Go Tales: Lap Dance Cinema

A movie that's not just about stripping and lap dancing but 'is' stripping and lap dancing for nearly its entire 96 minutes, Abel Ferrara' Go Go Tales feels like a film that may have had something important to say, but the ever unpredictable Ferrara got really distracted by all those nearly naked writhing bodies, on his way to making a movie.

Ray Ruby's Paradise is the sleazy Manhattan downtown strip joint in question, a raucous, shady establishment run by a couple of raucous shady hustlers, played by Willem Dafoe, the Ray Ruby in question, and Bob Hoskins. They haven't paid the rent in months either, and so the shrewish landlady (Sylvia Miles) shows up to curse and bark at the pair, threatening to turn the premises over to Bed, Bath, and Beyond, when not cursing and barking at assorted customers. Matthew Modine also turns up as an investor, collecting his bill in stripper sex rather than cash.

There's also some monkey business going on about a lost and found lottery ticket whose redemption should simmer down the peeved dancers a bit, who haven't been paid in quite some time. All of these plot points by the way, are mere narrative sidebars to the endless bumping, grinding, breast jiggling, and rubbing up against leering married customers in seedy suits. Sorry, setting up a camera in a strip club and just letting stuff happen, does not a movie make. The only striking dramatic moment comes when a customer - a medical student salivating all over the lap dancers - goes into shock and attacks the woman baring all on stage because, well, she just happens to be his wife. And you know, how dare she show up at such a place. Even being reminded by management that she's stripping to pay his way through medical school doesn't cool him down.

Bookending Go Go Tales is a stripper in a ballerina costume who gets to perform ballet on stage when the club closes after hours and morphs into a cabaret. It seems that each woman had a dream they embraced creatively, including a magician and concert pianist, but had to give all that up to make a living. Ray Ruby himself wanted to be a singer rather than a sleazebag, and he does some really awful crooning on stage too.

Not sure about the message Abel is floating here, but if it's how money crushes our aspirations rather then making sellouts of us all, I'd wonder what price tag led Ferrara to abandon his own inner artist for this. A trip to the theater to catch 96 minutes of nearly nonstop simulated, vicarious sex is certainly a whole lot cheaper than your average visit to a strip joint, and should be a cash cow for Abel.

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